The Corner

Senator Feinstein Learned More from Leaks Than As Chair of Intelligence Committee

Senior White House adviser David Plouffe insisted yesterday that criticism of the avalanche of national-security leaks from the Obama administration amounted to a “game of distraction.” But apparently playing his own game, he refused to respond to questions about whether President Obama would order any member of his administration with knowledge of the leaks to come forward — as President George W. Bush did in the controversy over leaks about the identity of CIA employee Valerie Plame.

Sadly, the leaks are anything but a game. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Intelligence Committee, held a news conference last week to declare: “This has to stop. When people say they don’t want to work with the United States, because they can’t trust us to keep a secret, that’s serious.” 

The leaks — mostly revealed in New York Times reporter David Sanger’s new book Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power — open up the whole gamut of U.S. secret operations. That includes the Navy Seals raid to kill bin Laden, missions in Pakistan, a Yemeni double agent, the Predator drone protocols, the cyberwar against Iraq, and covert operations in Africa.

Senator Feinstein said her heart has stopped at points during her reading of the Sanger book. She’s only halfway through it, but told San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders last week: “You learn more from the book than I did as chairman of the intelligence committee, and that’s very disturbing to me.”

It should be for all of us. Even David Sanger, the author basking in all the attention, was taken a aback a bit by Senator Feinstein’s statement. “Hmmm…not sure this is good news,” he tweeted. Indeed.

More and more people are asking questions about the possible role of the White House national-security adviser, Thomas Donilon, who is quoted throughout the Sanger book. As Peggy Noonan wrote in last Saturday’s Wall Street Journal: “When I was a child, there was a doll called Chatty Cathy. You pulled a string in her back, and she babbled inanely. Tom Donilon appears to be the Chatty Cathy of the American intelligence community.”

Perhaps it’s time for Donilon, his aides, and other administration officials to be asked to appear before a congressional committee and asked directly under oath if they had anything to do with the leaks. 

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