Posted on December 17, 2005
So for a year the NYT sat on the story of the Presidential authorization permitting the NSA, normally proscribed from domestic intelligence collection, to intercept phone calls to and from suspected al Queda telephone numbers overseas. I guess they weren’t all that concerned about privacy or civil rights. But they finally ran the story yesterday, because, well: A year is a long time. Plus the Patriot Act was up for renewal in Congress, only now it’s not any more, because the NYT ran the story about an NSA and presidential administration run amok, tracing terrorist phone calls, didn’t matter where they came from.
As the President pointed out in today’s radio address though, this was precisely the kind of capability that would have prevented 9/11 from happening, the kind of capability that the 9/11 commission strenuously supported:
In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on our nation, I authorized the National Security Agency, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. Before we intercept these communications, the government must have information that establishes a clear link to these terrorist networks.
This is a highly classified program that is crucial to our national security. Its purpose is to detect and prevent terrorist attacks against the United States, our friends and allies. Yesterday the existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports, after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk. Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies, and endangers our country.
Now, the news media ran circles round themselves flagellating administration officials responsible for revealing the truth about George Wilson’s relationship to Valerie Plame, his wife and a former non-official cover CIA operative who recommended him for his Nigerian boondoggle. By doing so, in response to what was perceived as a political attack on the White House, the leakers may or may not have violated a rather obscure national security provision against revealing names of NOC agents – but no one seriously proposes that outing Valerie really harmed national security.
This leak on the other hand, demonstrably will have done so – this is the real deal. Sources of intelligence will now dry up and terror plots that would have been discovered now have a far higher chance of success, and the leakers will have on their hands the innocent blood of those deaths that such intelligence would have prevented. The leaker or leakers had to know that his access to this kind of technical capability was a highly guarded secret, you don’t get access to this kind of stuff without explicitly acknowledging your statutory responsibility to safeguard it. I anxiously await the full-court media press to discover the source of this latest leak.
Unless of course leaks are only bad when they help the government. But no – that would be a bizzare stand to take in a country still at war, in the city whose innocent citizens were the first and most numerous victims of the enemy’s attack.
Update: Goldstein’s better on this, of course. I like this bit best:
Because it is not quaint to reveal our secrets simply because you don’t believe that we are truly at war. And that is what is happening here—that Dems and progressives believe the ends justify the means. And until the rest of us stand up and go on the offensive—until we stop taking the kind of reactive posture that forces us to defend each and every necessary action (the precise rhetorical position anti-war progressives want us in)—we will continue to watch our safety erode, and our politicians go weak.