As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

More Leaks To Plug

Chief water-carrier Senator Pat Roberts has good reason to stop any investigation of intelligence on Iraq, particularly the intelligence that got leaked out of his own mouth:

On the eve of the invasion of Iraq, Sen. Pat Roberts was involved in disclosing sensitive intelligence information that, according to four former senior intelligence officers, impaired efforts to capture Saddam Hussein and potentially threatened the lives of Iraqis who were spying for the United States.

On March 20, 2003, at the onset of military hostilities between U.S. and Iraqi forces, Roberts said in a speech to the National Newspaper Association that he had "been in touch with our intelligence community" and that the CIA had informed President Bush and the National Security Council "of intelligence information from what we call human intelligence that indicated the location of Saddam Hussein and his leadership in a bunker in the suburbs of Baghdad."

The former intelligence officials said in interviews that Roberts was never held accountable for his comments, which bore directly on the issue of intelligence-gathering sources and methods, and revealed that Iraqis close to Hussein were probably talking to the United States. These former officials contrasted the Roberts case with last week's firing of CIA officer Mary O. McCarthy, as examples of how rank and file intelligence professionals now have much to fear from legitimate and even inadvertent contacts with journalists, while senior executive branch officials and members of Congress are almost never held accountable when they seriously breach national security through leaks of information.

"On a scale of one to ten, if Mary McCarthy did what she is accused of doing, it would be at best a six or seven," said one former senior intelligence official, whose position required involvement in numerous leak investigations. "What Pat Roberts did, from a legal and national security point of view, was an eleven."

Hey, thanks a lot, asshole!

Murray Waas also lets out this new nugget in the ongoing Mary McCarthy story:

A former CIA official who worked closely with McCarthy said in an interview that McCarthy was often authorized and directed by higher-ups to talk to the press.

"It is not uncommon for an officer, when they are designated to talk to the press, to let something slip, or not report every contact," the former official said. "Mary might have said something or disclosed something inadvertently, which is exactly Roberts' defense. The only difference between them is that Pat Roberts is the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Mary is somebody that they are using to set an example."

Let's have you judge for yourself the impact of the two leaks. We know what McCarthy is accused of (though she denies it), calling attention to a series of illegal dentention facilities off the books, run by the CIA, for the purposes of torturing detainees. Pat Roberts, on the other hand, only was ruining the "decapitation strategy" at the forefront of the Iraq war effort:

After opening his speech with the information about human intelligence and Saddam Hussein's location in a Baghdad bunker, the senator said that President Bush had conferred with his top military advisers and had "authorized a pre-emptive surgical strike with 40 Tomahawk Missiles launched by ship and submarines and so called bunker bombs by F-117 stealth aircraft. I do not have a damage assessment. The Iraqi's report 14 killed and one wounded and are reporting damage in residential areas."

At the time, it was one of the most sensitive secrets in government that the CIA had recruited Iraqi nationals who claimed to have infiltrated Hussein's inner circle to be able to follow his movements at the onset of war. But after the bombs and missiles hit an Iraqi governmental complex known as Dora Park, located on the Tigris River south of Baghdad, Hussein either was not there, or escaped unharmed.

Whether or not Roberts' comments were inadvertent, former intelligence officials said, they almost certainly tipped off the Iraqi dictator that there were spies close to him. "He [Roberts] had given up that we had a penetration of [Saddam's] inner circle," says a former senior intelligence official. "It was the worst thing you could ever do."

I don't think there should be a total judgment made between good and bad leaks. But there's a clear demarcation between whistleblowing on illegal activity, and bragging that we're gonna get Saddam, while blurting out that we have human intelligence in his inner circle. That's just pitifully stupid.

But there is a judgment among leaks made by this Administration, and it cuts across party lines. Remember the Sen. Richard Shelby case?

UPDATE: This Hill story about the eventual ending of the Shelby case (without any action) has a nice punchline:

The Senate Select Committee on Ethics is expected to end its investigation of alleged classified leaks by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) in the next eight to 10 weeks, according to a source familiar with the probe.

The pace has been slowed by difficulties obtaining information, difficulties created partly by Sen. Pat Roberts’s (R-Kan.) decision not to recuse himself from the case, the source said. The investigation has been conducted “off and on” for six months.