The Nearly Twelve
The big story here isn’t the interception of terrorists’ communications from overseas to people within the United States or the government’s monitoring radiation levels of private buildings.
The big story this past week is that someone or ones are willing to break the law by leaking classified information and some major media outlets are willing to aid and abet the crime. The real question isn’t why the Bush administration took the actions it did, but rather why the leakers are leaking and why some in the media are more than happy to help.
Well, it looks like we were right and we just may find out. The Justice Department has been asked by the NSA to investigate leaks to the New York Times concerning the agency’s terrorist communication intercept program. “White House spokesman Trent Duffy said Justice undertook the action on its own, and Bush was informed of it Friday.”
From the New York Times:
"The leaking of classified information is a serious issue," Mr. Duffy said. "The fact is that Al Qaeda's playbook is not printed on Page One, and when America's is, it has serious ramifications."The American Civil Liberties Union disagrees:
The president last week denounced the leak of information about the program in strong language, saying: "My personal opinion is it was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important program in a time of war. The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy."
Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union: "Our nation is strengthened, not weakened, by those whistle-blowers who are courageous enough to speak out on violations of the law."
But apparently not courageous enough to let the Times use their names.
“Nearly a dozen current and former officials, who were granted anonymity because of the classified nature of the program, discussed it with reporters for The New York Times because of their concerns about the operation’s legality and oversight.”
The “concerns” of “nearly a dozen current and former officials” (what number is nearly 12?) apparently reached a fevered pitch right before the presidential election last year. When the Times didn’t print the story at that critical monument, the “whistle-blowers'” campaign to uncover the administration’s “abuse of power” seems to have lost urgency. Now the NSA program again becomes a “concern to American civil liberties” a few weeks before James Risen’s book launch. What coincidences!
The “nearly twelve” probably thought no one would ever discover or disclose their identity. Presumably if their well-timed leaks worked as intended, George Bush would not be president and a Kerry Justice Department would not vigorously investigate the leaks. Besides, the New York Times wouldn’t burn their sources, right? What a difference a year makes. Just ask Judy Miller.
James Taranto quips: “If we were James Risen or Erich Lichtblau, who broke the NSA story for the Times, we'd be nervous.” Michelle Malkin asks: "Any bets on how long it will take for Eric Lichtblau and James Risen to roll over? I'd guess a few weeks after Risen's book launch."
We don’t know how nervous the reporters will be or how long it will take for Risen or Lichtblau to squeal, but if we were members of the "nearly twelve” we’d be worried about one of our fellow big mouths spilling their guts to the FBI. After all, they’ve each proven they can’t be trusted with secrets.