In the last twenty-five years, the media explosion has enabled people,like us, to obtain news of the world within minutes of a breaking story. I've personally tried to keep up with all of the important political news from our nation's capitol as you may have been doing, as well. I've always considered myself to be fairly well-informed, at least I did, up until the other day when I came across a story about news leaks at the nation's capitol that appeared in the Chicago Tribune. Several thoughts went through my mind as I read this unbelievable account telling
me all about news-leaks, ... and, now hear this, and how this is all done with the co-operation of the news media! I had always believed, or then wanted to believe that there were, atleast, a few people possessing some personal integrity and strength of character. I wanted to share the Tribune story with you and get your reaction. Can I have been so naive to believe that to leak classified or secret documents was a most serious, treasonable, offense which resulted in severe punishment for the offender?
Or should I have known, all along, how these things are planted
in news services, newspapers, etc? To be perfectly honest with you, I have never seen a story before that deals with the subject of news-leaks in as much detail as this one. Or, for that matter, a story that treats the subject of news-leaks as if the whole world already knows all about them! I had pretty much believed this subject was always out there, but never really talked about very much. Well, I hope you will pass along your comments to me after reading the story:
Pssst! Did you know leaks are a D.C. routine?
By Richard T. Cooper and Faye Fiore
WASHINGTON: Months after U.S. troops stormed into Iraq, the Pentagon drafted a top-secret document using classified intelligence to spell out Baghdad's involvement with Al Qaeda. It supported one of President Bush's stronger arguments for the war. Within days parts of the classified report appeared verbatim in a conservative magazine, The Weekly Standard, complete with the paragraph numbers that are a telltale feature of Defense Department documents. The article said the intelligence left no doubt that Hussein had been in league with Al Qaeda.
lt was a classic leak - -the kind of national security breach that the Bush administration often has reacted to with indignation. But this tune instead of complaining, officials began holding up the article as proof of the Hussein - Bin Laden nexus.
Talking to the Rocky Mountain News, Vice-President Dick Chaney said, "One place you ought to go look is an article in The Weekly Standard here a few weeks ago." That is your best source of information about Hussein and bin Laden, he said.
Even at the time, many members of the intelligence community believed the relationship between the two was unimportant and considered the leaked memo as a distortion of the evidence.
The episode, which unfolded in late 2003 and early 2004 reflected one of the most basic facts of life in Washington. While officials often portray leaks as renegade acts that betray the public trust, in realitv they are just as likely to be fully approved, calculated actions by loyal members of an administrations actions designed to advance an agenda, thwart enemies and manipulate public opinion.
Sometimes, planning for leaks starts in the White House. It was disclosed, Thursdav, that former Cheney aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby has testified he was told that President Bush himself approved a leak in July 2003 of selected, material from a different classified report.. The information was meant to bolster another administration argument for the Iraq war The White House has not denied leaking the material. Critics say such leaks helped Bush in the buildup to the war.
"Leaking is a matter of White House policy to implement an agenda" said Lanny i)avis, the former special counsel to President Bill Clinton who raised leaking to an art form during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. "That has been the case since the founding of the republic."
Specter: Bush, Cheney should explain CIA leak ! Associated Press WASHINGTON President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney should speak publicly about their involvement in the CIA leak case, a leading Republican Senator said Sunday. "We ought to get to the bottom of it so it can be evaluated, again, by the American people, said Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee. In a federal court filing last week, the prosecutor in the case said Chaney's former chief of staff, Lewis Libby, testified before a grand jury that he was authorized by Bush, through Chaney, to leak information from a classified document that detailed intelligence agencies' about weapons of mass-destruction in Iraq. Bush is not accused of doing anything illegal. As president he is authorized to declassify secret information. "The president may be entirely in the clear," Specter told Fox News on Sunday. But he added, it was not the right way to go about it because we ought not to have leaks in government.
Meeting to plan leaks
Today, leaking has become such a basic part of the way Washington works that officials hold meetings to decide when, where and how to leak. They cultivate reporters who can be counted on to make good use of leaks. They draft memos spelling out official leak policies so that lower level officials will know how to leak correctly
Over time, the number of different kinds of leaks and the purposes they are crafted to serve have multiplied. There are "trial balloon" leaks to test reaction to an idea before it is officially put forward. There are leaks designed to shoot down trial balloons.
Some leaks are designed to encourage news coverage, others to kill or limit it.
Shrewd leaks can elicit prominent coverage for routine news, the news manager's equivalent of turning chicken feet into chicken salad.
In mid-March, the White House leaked copies of a new national security report to four newspapers. The New York Time, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times. The report did little more than restate well-known policy, but it got prominent play in all four papers. Most newspapers treat exclusive stories better than everyone else has. And the stories generally convey the message the White House wanted to send: a warning to Iran that it had moved to the top of the U.S. threats list. To achieve an opposite effect, blunting unfavorable news , officials may use the hiding-in-plain-sight strategy. As an example, the leak such news to the Associated Press, the national wire service to which most all media subscribe. The theory is that if everyone has the story, no one will make a big deal out of it. A variation is leaking something unfavorable on a Friday night, knowing that news gets less attention at the start of a weekend than on other days.
"Leaks are good"
To be sure, not all leaks are part of a government plan. Some leaks are designed to halt or discredit a plan or policy that an insider does not support, or even to bring out the truth. The leaker may be a partisan, an anonymous whistle-blower or a high-minded public servant. Leaks are good, said Joan Claybrook, president of the advocacy group, Public Citizen. "There is too much secrecy in our government."