If, as reports suggest, President-elect Trump will nominate Carly Fiorina to be the next director of national intelligence, some Democratic senators contemplating her confirmation may feel tempted to claim that she leaked classified information in one of the Republican presidential debates. But they would be foolish decision to repeat that baseless charge, which is still rocketing around liberal blogs.
The dubious accusation stems from Fiorina’s statement in a November 2015 debate on Fox News that “We have more IRS agents than we have FBI and CIA. Does that strike you as a misallocation of resources? Of course it is.”
The Daily Beast’s Olivia Nuzzi jumped on the statement, claiming Fiorina is guilty of “either lying or dangerously close to revealing classified information.”
Nuzzi pointed out that the precise number of CIA agents is classified — and that because public records indicate the number of IRS agents and FBI agents, anyone who can do math could calculate the remainder. In 2006, Fiorina headed up a CIA External Advisory Board, and regularly lunched privately with then-director Michael Hayden. Nuzzi then leveled a heavy charge with a lot of caveats:
If Fiorina did in fact learn how many officers the CIA employs through her relationship with Hayden or her work on the board, she surely learned, too, that the information was not for public consumption — meaning that she knowingly gave a ballpark estimate for a classified data point on national television.
A nefarious scenario, one that ignores the fact that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence releases a budget that breaks down the total number of personnel and positions at each agency, which the Washington Post published in 2013. The newspaper’s report featured elaborate charts and graphs about the number of employees in the intelligence community, as well as the budgets and mission objectives of those agencies. (A Fiorina aide confirms to National Review that her campaign staff found the estimated figure using Google and checking with outside experts.)
The accusation against Fiorina didn’t arrive in a vacuum. Since the revelation that Hillary Clinton never used a government e-mail account and all of her e-mails were kept on a private server, including messages that held classified information, voices on the left have contended that almost everyone with a security clearance spills state secrets from time to time. Around the same time, Newsweek suggested that Ted Cruz also leaked classified information in a Republican debate, when he said, while discussing domestic-surveillance programs, “the old program covered 20 percent to 30 percent of phone numbers to search for terrorists. The new program covers nearly 100 percent.” This too represented a discussion of publicly reported information. Cruz spokeswoman Katherine Frazier pointed out that those numbers were reported by the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal a year earlier.
#related#Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, pointed out that repeating facts that have already been reported to the public does not constitute leaking classified information. (If that were the case, every journalist covering the alleged leaks would be committing a crime as well.)
Fiorina may be an unexpected choice for the next Director of National Intelligence, and her record, both on the CIA advisory board and in corporate life, will undoubtedly be examined closely by the Senate Intelligence Committee in the confirmation process. But no one should waste time on a ginned-up controversy over her long-forgotten debate comment.
— Jim Geraghty is National Review’s senior political correspondent.