The Corner

Far Worse Than Watergate, More Damaging Than Iran Contra

There were no leaks in these recent scandals over American covert operations, in that the information was not leaked by outsiders, but rather freely given by insiders. And so what is clear about Securitygate is that it is unlike any other past scandal over publicized classified documents or accounts of covert operations. The usual modus operandi has been for liberal reporters to develop unnamed and would-be whistle-blower sources, who question an administration’s stealthy national-security efforts. Then the administration goes ballistic that its most private protocols and operations have gone public, while the reporters in question see themselves as speaking truth to power, as they bask in praise, good book sales, promotions, or prizes for their courage. On occasion the leaker is found out and canonized as he jostles with the legal system.

That did not happen in the case of the released information about the bin Laden mission, missions in Pakistan, the Yemeni double agent, the Predator-drone protocols, and the cyberwar against Iraq, or our covert war in Africa. Instead, the theme of the work of a Sanger or Ignatius or others is that we should all be “surprised” at just how muscular is the Obama version of the war on terror — an appreciation that is especially timely in mid-2012, rather than, say, 2009 or 2010. In turn, despite the president’s mock outrage, the leakers are not seen as rogues threatening U.S. national security, but as zealous patriots who simply want the American people to see another side of Barack Obama before they vote in November — a decision far more important to our long-term national security than any short-term damage that accrues.

The subtitle of David Sanger’s book says it all, does it not? The “Surprising Use of American Power” — “surprising” is a rather mild adjective that one might not expect from a New York Times “investigative” reporter hell-bent on rushing into print leaked material about controversial, questionable, and covert U.S. operations. But then that was not the intent of Sanger, nor any of the other “reporters” who have been given exclusive access to either Obama administration insiders or to once sort of, now kind of classified materials.

Once all this is digested, I don’t see how a Sanger et al. or their suppliers ever regain much credibility.

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