Tuesday, November 29, 2005

John Fund has a blockbuster of a story on several levels. Apparently, Harry Reid has leaked classified information to the press.
Last Wednesday, the Minority Leader appeared on KRNV-TV's "Nevada Newsmakers" program and dropped a stunning revelation. He had been informed just that day that Osama bin Laden was killed in the giant Pakistan earthquake last month. "I heard that Osama bin Laden died in the earthquake, and if that's the case, I certainly wouldn't wish anyone harm, but if that's the case, that's good for the world."

Intelligence analysts tell me that the only proper action by a top U.S. Senate leader who has been given such information is radio silence. If the report is true, such information is best released at a moment of the U.S. government's choosing. For one thing, as long as the information is tightly held, it can be used to sift out electronic intercepts that might lead to other Al Qaeda leaders. On the other hand, if Mr. Reid's public speculation proves groundless, it only embarrasses the U.S. and contributes to enemy morale. Here's hoping Al Qaeda figures aren't soon appearing on Al Jazeera television chortling about the clueless Mr. Reid.

Earlier this month, Mr. Reid was eager to keep discussions of intelligence matters under wraps. For little apparent reason, he invoked a seldom-used rule that forced the Senate to go into secret session to debate complaints about pre-war intelligence concerning Saddam's weapons programs. ...
This is a scandal! If senators can't be trusted with top secret information, they won't be able to perform their Constitutional obligations to oversight of the Executive branch. They must be trusted to keep their big yaps shut. And this guy goes off blabbing to the local news station! What a jerk! His security clearance needs to be revoked. This is so much more serious than anything that Scooter Libby is accused of doing.

Will the Senate police its own? Probably not. Think of the slap on the wrist that Patrick Leahy got when he had been leaking top secret information for years.
Leahy has long opposed anti-terrorism efforts. During the mid-1980s, the heart of the Reagan administration, Leahy served as vice-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. It was while in this position of power that he earned the nickname "Leahy the Leaker." According to a 1987 San Diego Union-Tribune report, in a 1985 television appearance Leahy disclosed classified information that one of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's telephone conversations had been intercepted. The information that Leahy revealed had been used in the operation to capture the Arab terrorists who had hijacked the Achille Lauro cruise ship and killed American citizens, and the Union-Tribune claimed that Leahy's indiscretion may have cost the life of at least one of the Egyptian operatives involved in that operation. In 1987, The Washington Times reported that Leahy had also leaked secret information about a 1986 covert operation planned by the Reagan administration to overthrow Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Leahy allegedly had said, "I thought [the operation] was probably the most ridiculous thing I had seen, and also the most irresponsible," and had threatened to expose the operation to CIA Director William Casey. A few weeks later, details of the plan appeared in The Washington Post, and the operation was cancelled.

Another example of Leahy revealing confidential information occurred just before the Iran-Contra hearings were to begin, when he allowed an NBC reporter to look through the Senate Intelligence Committee's confidential draft report on the burgeoning scandal. After NBC used the privileged information in a January 1987 report, Leahy came under increasing fire, and after a six-month internal investigation he was forced to step down from his seat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Leahy's leak was considered to be one of the most serious breaches of secrecy in the Intelligence Committee's then-10-year history.
Now, let's think about this story that Reid leaked. He says that he has heard that Osama was killed in the earthquake. I imagine that there are two possibilities here. One possibility is that we have suspicions that Osama was killed - perhaps we've intercepted some "chatter" or just haven't heard anything about him since the earthquake. In that case, we don't really know that he's dead and, if he's not, he's probably happy for us to be guessing. And, as Fund says, we'd look stupid if it turns out that he is alive and our much vaunted CIA has made another intelligence error.

The other possibility is that we have solid information that he's dead. Might it not be possible that we would want to keep that information secret for a whole host of reasons? We could have sources or methods of gathering information that we're protecting. And now Senator Blabbermouth has blown it.

Will we hear an outcry over this leak of national security information? I think we know the answer. Did you know that three Democratic senators, including the ranking minority member of the Intelligence Committee have been under investigation for a year for leaking top secret information?
Three members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence have apparently committed a very serious crime by blabbing about a highly-classified satellite program to the press last week. If these men actually did what it appears they did, we ought to throw the book at 'em for divulging one of our most-protected secrets: stealthy reconnaissance satellites.

As a result of their revelations to the public and the press, three U.S. Senators -- Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who's also the ranking Dem on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) -- are the subject of a "criminal referral" made on Monday for speaking publicly about this satellite. Such referrals are made to the Justice Department by the administration when criminal conduct is suspected. In this case, it's not only suspected, it's evidenced on the front pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post. A highly reliable intelligence community source told me that the referral had been made because senior administration officials were beside themselves that the three had taken the controversy on funding this project to the press.
This was a full year ago and we have heard nothing more on this story. Should Rockefeller and Wyden still be on the Intelligence Committee?

You know, if the Democrats want to start chanting "culture of corruption," perhaps the GOP can start chanting "culture of leaks." Which hurt the country more? Duke Cunningham being a corrupt fool and sacrificing his whole career for millions of dollars in bribes or these senators leaking classified information?

UPDATE: Welcome readers from Lorie Byrd and Michelle Malkin. Michelle reminds us of another time when Harry Reid ran his yap about classified information.

Bare Knuckles has the video of Harry Reid. Watch the two together. He's wearing the same clothes, so I assume he gave the two interviews the same day. In the first, he just theorizing that OBL is dead. By the second one, he's giving the quote that John Fund noted. Did he hear something in between the two interviews? Or was he telling the second interview what the first reporter said when she asked him and reporting it as something he heard "seriously." Whichever, it is so very clear that he's blabbing away and saying something he shouldn't have.

UPDATE: I see that a Nevada reporter is saying now that Reid was just repeating what he had heard on NPR. If you listen to the second clip that Bare Knuckles has posted, Reid says "I heard today that he may have died in the earthquake they had in Pakistan, seriously." Well, if all he was doing is repeating speculation from NPR I apologize for impugning his ability to keep secrets. However, there is a difference between a guy from a think tank speculating about the possibility and the Minority Leader of the Senate, who does have access to intelligence, speculating. He certainly leaves the implication that "I heard today" comes from his official position and not just what he heard on the radio with the way he phrased it. So, he's not spilling secrets; he's just repeating speculation.

The question still stands about the information he leaked from a judicial nominee's secret FBI file and the other examples of Democrats leaking classified information. And, I'm willing to throw Richard Shelby to the dogs for leaking about our listening in on Osama's satellite phones. I think the whole lot of these senators who hear things in confidence and then leak them is a real scandal not only for what it does to our national security but also for how they are endangering the way our system of checks and balances needs to work.