Tale of two leaks


Actions speak louder than words

It was the best of leaks, it was the worst of leaks, it cast doubt on dissent, it cast light on darkness. It brought a flood of indignant words, it brought action. Quelle surprise!

It's instructive to compare how the Bush administration responded to two leaks.

Back in 2003 while the Bushies were beating the drums of war against Iraq, one of the most alarming and convincing claims was that "the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Coupled with Condi's ominous talk of a "mushroom cloud," many people became convinced that the Menace in Mesopotamia was threatening nuclear Armageddon. Former ambassador Joseph Wilson, sent by the CIA to check on the claim, had the temerity to pen an op-ed piece in the New York Times saying that "some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat." Within days, someone at the White House revealed that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA agent and suggested Wilson lacked credibility because his wife had had a role in sending him on the trip.

W clucked his tongue and tsk-tsked, vowing that he would get to the bottom of it and would deal severely with anyone in his administration who leaked information. Although the number of "senior White House officials" privy to knowledge of Plame's CIA status was exceedingly small, to this day no one has taken responsibility or suffered any consequences for leaking Plame's name. It remains a mystery — conveniently, one presumes.

In late 2005, the Washington Post published reports of a top-secret chain of "black" prisons maintained by the CIA in several countries for the purpose of detaining and interrogating "high-value" captives in the War on Terror. Only a handful of officials in the government were aware of the existence and locations of the prisons, much less any details about who is held, for what reasons, and under what conditions. The administration and CIA successfully stifled Congressional inquiry, fearing that even acknowledging the existence of the prisons "could open the U.S. government to legal challenges, particularly in foreign courts, and increase the risk of political condemnation at home and abroad."

Yesterday, the CIA dismissed a senior intelligence official for having leaked information to reporters from the Post and other news outlets.

The Valerie Plame leak was helpful to the Bush administration. Years later, the leaker has not yet been identified. The CIA prison leak was damaging to the Bush administration. A few months later, the leaker has been identified and dismissed.

Coincidence? You decide.