June 29, 2006
By Peter Brookes
The nameless, faceless leakers of classified national- security
information aren't heroes, as some would claim. In fact, they're
nothing more than spies - veritable "moles," giving "aid and
comfort" to our enemies, including al Qaeda.
The unauthorized exposure of the overseas
terrorist-finance-tracking program in The New York Times is just
the latest example of gutless bottom-feeders advancing their own
agendas at the expense of national security. These people have
betrayed their colleagues, and Americans have - or will - die as a
Enough is enough. The government, especially Congress, must do
much more to clamp down on these "treasonous" acts by developing
policies and practices to deter the leaking of classified
information to the press - and punish it.
Don't buy the various excuses that leaks can serve the public
interest. All government employees with access to classified
information are duty bound to protect it, under penalty of
They can still blow the whistle on a policy or program gone awry.
Measures exist to make competent authorities (not the press) aware.
Each agency's Inspector General is a good first option; if that
avenue fails, there are the congressional oversight committees. The
intelligence committees, with their cleared staffs and secure
hearing rooms, can take informal/formal testimony in open or closed
Leaking operational (as opposed to analytical) information is an
especially egregious offense. Disclosing sensitive intelligence
sources, methods or plans puts both American operatives and the
foreign agents working on our behalf in danger.
The bad guys read the press - especially ours, which is rife with
sensitive information. They use this knowledge to their operational
advantage by changing their tactics and plans to outwit or
For instance, terrorists will change how they move the money used
to shed more innocent blood - maybe even here in the United States
- because of the information exposed in Friday's New York
Leaks also make foreign partners reluctant to share. Why would a
foreign intelligence service dole out info gained from an operation
that, if exposed, would put their other operations, personnel and
agents at risk - or prove embarrassing? (This matters a lot:
International cooperation is critical in fighting transnational
threats such as terrorism and problems like Iran and North Korea's
Moreover, what foreign agent would want to work for U.S.
intelligence if it means your cloak and dagger work might end up on
the front page of an American newspaper, leading possibly to prison
or a swift, short swing on the gallows? Just think of the gruesome
consequences in Iraq . . .
Leaks also impair cooperation between U.S. government agencies -
with one agency failing to share intelligence with another for fear
that its sources/methods may be unduly exposed to the public. This
dread also makes our operatives more operationally
Leakers aren't only breaking the law and a special trust given to
them by the government, they're also breaking ranks with their
colleagues - many of whom bravely go in harm's way around the
According to insiders, CIA employees overwhelmingly support the
idea of banishing leakers from their midst. There's not a lot of
sympathy for dismissed CIA employee Mary McCarthy, who is rumored
to be the source of stories alleging that the agency runs secret
Outrage isn't enough. The government needs to do more. Congress
should better define "leaking" in law, while the executive branch
should more vigorously hunt down leakers (as ex-CIA Director Porter
Goss did) and prosecute them.
Yes, secrecy in the name of national security has to be balanced
against the public's right to know. But that balance is precarious,
especially during war. Some Americans, especially media and
government types, regrettably refuse to take the consequences of
their actions into account. Until they get a clue, cracking down is
Brookes, a senior fellow at The Heritage
Foundation, is the author of "A Devil's Triangle: Terrorism, WMD
and Rogue States."
First appeared in the New York Post
The unauthorized exposure of the overseas terrorist-finance-tracking program in The New York Times is just the latest example of gutless bottom-feeders advancing their own agendas at the expense of national security. These people have betrayed their colleagues, and Americans have - or will - die as a result.
Senior Fellow, National Security Affairs
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