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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A Real Leak?

As opposed to the Valerie Plame kerfuffle, this is a serious issue.

The Washington Post last week reported on the CIA's secret prisons throughout Europe and other areas around the world. I made the point over at the InterGalacticJester that the media's jumping at this story was hypocritical - no mention was made that to leak this type of information could easily be construed as a threat to national security. The simplest of many reasons this could threaten national security: If terrorists know where their captured friends are being held, they may try to attack the prison and free them. Then again, they may just bomb the place and consider their captured friends "martyrs".

Leaking secret government positions is dangerous - and even if in this case it does not pose a serious threat to national security, it sets a dangerous precedent on reporting CIA locations and/or tactics. Therefore, it was nice to see that the government has decided to take action in this case:
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert on Tuesday called for a congressional leak investigation into who told the news media about previously undisclosed U.S. interrogation centers abroad. "If accurate, such an egregious disclosure could have long-term and far-reaching damaging and dangerous consequences, and will imperil our efforts to protect the American people and our homeland from terrorist attacks," Frist and Hastert said in a letter.
We'll have to see what happens with this. I imagine the press will give little coverage of the story, in the hopes it will die down. Presumably, they have learned from the Plame affair. In that case, they pushed so hard to find out if there was a leak, and in the process a couple of reporters ended up in jail for not disclosing sources. The last thing the press needs is a law that requires them to divulge sources in cases such as this. Most likely, the press will let the story run its course this time - and hope that the reporter gets permission to name the sources outright.

If the reporter does not, the press will be in a bind: If the reporter names the leaker, the press will lose trust and credibility. No more anonymous sources will be willing to give reporters information, because the reporters will be required to divulge names if it gets investigated. If the reporter does not name names, the reporter will likely go to jail - and future reporters will be unwilling to work on any stories that are remotely questionable. This will devalue the press as a whole.

It is ironic that the press has done this to themselves. Would the press, as is often suggested, be a little more responsible in what they choose to report, they would not get caught in these sticky situations. The press has a responsibility to provide the people of this country with news that will inform them and serve the interests of the people. The interests of the people are not serviced when national security is threatened. The press should be more selective in the stories they print - often, it means holding off on a story until more details are gathered; rarely, it means not reporting the story at all.

I do not feel that there should be a law made which restricts reporters from submitting reports. I think that would be a dangerous precedent against the freedoms of the press. I do feel that the press should be more responsible in their reporting, or the government will likely feel forced to make such a law.

Responsibility is not exclusive to government officials - it is incumbent upon reporters as well.

[Now available at Basil and the Political Teen]

14 comments:

  1. Looks like it's whirlwind reaping time

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  2. I'm not sure I understood you this time...

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  3. Personally, I am more worried about what we do to them than where we are keeping them.

    It is interesting that intelligence leaks are going to get bounced about the political tennis court.

    I guess it was a lot simpler when a reporter could telegraph what Generals Lee and Mead were up to the day before.

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  4. I am referring to all the liberals who were so eager to join the nation security bandwagon with Libby now have to confront their own rhetoric as applied to an actual national security problem.

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  5. R2JB - Okay, that's what I was leaning towards, but I was not sure. And that's one of my main points. Good way of putting it.

    Copy Editor - I'm actually not as worried about what we're doing to them... you are new here, so you haven't read my posts on the subject. A few days ago I posted a discussion I was involved in called "Saving Lives"; and there's a link to "Interrogations: Torture or Neccessary Evil?" near the beginning.

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  6. The next country we fight may torture (waterboard, crucify on bed posts, sleep deprive, etc etc.) our G.I.'s.

    Treating prisoners of war humanely, no matter how misguided their cause, is an important military tradition. You will notice that some pretty distinguished Senators (Hagel, McCain) are against the tactics used by the Pentagon.

    I cannot name the Marine, but during WW2 he would treat his prisoners to a kind face, cigarettes and an eager ear... he got much better intel than anyone else.

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  7. The best argument against the practices you mention is others doing the reverse, and I'll grant that.

    However, there's a far cry between terrorists and soldiers of other nations. I made this point in one of the links I mentioned above. The terrorists will torture and behead our soldiers regardless of whether or not we do the same; other countries will not. I am not suggesting a blanket okay for the US to practice these techniques; only in the case of a terrorist - and only when there's reason to believe they have information needed to save lives.

    I don't think that keeping the ability to carry out such techniques will affect how others treat our soldiers. Terrorists will act however they want, no matter what we do; and other countries will not be applicable.

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  8. I need to read your other posts on this topic and I plan to tonight, perhaps developing my post from today -- if I have the energy.

    Right now I am sipping coffee at work and trying to not faceplant into my keyboard.

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  9. Sorry to burst your anti-liberal bubble but it now appears the leak came from within the GOP following a GOP/Cheney staff meeting last week on the hill.

    MUHAHAHAHAHAHA.

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  10. Source? From the news stories I've seen, they haven't even started investigating yet. I didn't claim any side initiated it - just noted that these leaks are problems and that the media should be careful in their reporting of classified information.

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  11. Source? It's all over the news! You might want to try something other than Fox though, they barely mentioned it during Special Report w/Brit Hume.
    The leaks are not the problem of the media but rather the person doing the leaking in the first place. It is the media's responsibility to report what is obviously a huge story. You seem to forget, the reports did not include a google map of the address of each gulag, so your theory that terrorists will either attack the gulag to "free them" (the alleged terrorists) or create martyrs of them just doesn't hold water.
    In principle I'm not completly opposed to torture under limited circumstances but that position by default takes all torture cards off the table, and then allows other nations to do the same to members of our military.
    There are reasons we signed onto the Geneva Convention and the policy has served us well thus far. I think you are letting your blind support of all-things GOP cloud your better judgement and common sense.
    Laila Tov...

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  12. I checked a number of places, and found that Trent Lott was the only one who suggested it may have been from a fellow GOP member - likely one who mentioned it to a staffer, who then leaked it. I'm not sure why that's any more plausible than anybody else who had access to this information leaking it. In addition, this is coming from Lott, who feels the party abandoned him when he made improper comments last year.

    The Geneva convention does not apply to terrorists. Check the rules that are written there.

    Leaks are problems caused by people who leak information, as you said. However, the press still has the ability to decide not to run the story. Therefore, they are equally as (if not more) responsible.

    I understand that the article did not include "maps" - that's not my point. I also mentioned that there are other reasons why this is a possible threat to national security. The CIA seems to agree, as they have requested the Justice Department to look into it, seperately from the request made by Frist et al. Regardless, the mere knowledge that the camps exist create a greater threat to those camps: Terrorists may now focus energies on finding those camps, knowing that they are at the least in a specific region, as opposed to across an ocean.

    As a favor, can you pick a name (an anonymous one) - I find it difficult to differentiate between Anons in the event there's more than one on a single thread.

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  13. Anon the Latter, do you have any more sourcing on this leak? Maybe some hyperlinks. A Href us!

    It is interesting that both Frist and Hastert lined up on this one. A very interesting pair. Lott would probably like to smack Frist around a little too, if he had the chance. I really like Lott when he is on Meet The Press. He seems a little more willing to be honest.

    There's nothing that bothers me more than a swarmy smile delivering talking points. Daschle is a prime offender.

    Wow, did I digress.

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