06-12-2012, 11:52 AM
Leaks and Lies!
| Leaks and Lies |
I once had a long discussion about leaks with Richard Helms, a thoughtful gentleman who steadfastly refused to reveal state secrets even when threatened with imprisonment. Helms was director of Central Intelligence for many years, and he told me that he had often been asked to identify the source(s) of leaks of sensitive information. “We always found the leaker(s),” he said, “but then nothing happened.” Why? “Because most of the time the leaker was so high-ranking that there was no desire to prosecute or punish.” He said that he’d identified the likes of cabinet secretaries in some of his investigations.
There are two invaluable lessons from Richard Helms’ reflections on leakers. Lesson One: If you want to know who leaked it, you will know.
Then add Lesson Two: But you are not likely to be happy with the answer.
You’ve got two basic options: Option One: you can quietly fold your investigative tent (“just let it die”), or you can prosecute or punish someone who made a mistake in the course of the investigation, even though he wasn’t the actual leaker (Option Two). Two lessons, two options.
Take the “Scooter Libby/Valerie Plame” case. In keeping with Helms’ Lesson One, it didn’t take long to discover that the leak had come from Richard Armitage, the powerful deputy secretary of state, who passed the information to Robert Novak. In keeping with Option Two, nothing was done to Armitage. Instead, Scooter Libby — who had made a false statement to investigators — was prosecuted, convicted, and punished.
The latest round of leaks seems a bit different from these texbook cases. The leaks that traditionally make administrations angry are those clearly designed to challenge official policy. Think the Pentagon Papers, for example, or the various CIA leaks during W’s years in office, aimed at discrediting the war. But the two leaks of the moment — the one about Obama’s personal involvement in the “kill list” of targets for Hellfire missiles, and the one about an alleged U.S.-Israeli joint cyber attack against Iran’s nuclear program — seem designed to make administration policy, and especially President Obama himself, look good.
[ Reply w/Quote ]