Battlepanda: The Spooks are spooked


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Spooks are spooked

Kevin Drum (see also downblog) rightly smacks down Max Boot for comparing the recent leakers that revealed the White House's spying activities to the Plame leakers -- " [F]or the record: yes, it's wrong for those in power to abuse their power by leaking the identity of a covert CIA operative, an act that's against the law. At the same time, it's a public service to reveal abuses of power, including illegal programs to engage in domestic surveillance. That ought to be pretty easy to understand."

But idiotic as Boot's comment was, it got me to thinking about the motivations of the respective leakers -- what were they trying to accomplish by going to the press? In the Plame case this is obvious -- the aim was to hurt a political foe and warn those who might oppose the White House in the future they are not shy about doling out more of the same. But what of those, likely in the intelligence community, who must have had to overcome years of training and conditioning to to contrary to go to the press? Simple civic duty? Or is what they're being asked to do so outside the bounds of acceptable behavior that intelligence officers are scrambling to cover their ass anyway they can, including putting the kibosh on the program by going public? Call it the CYA hypothesis.

I'm quoting a little more than I really need to to support my point from the exchange between Andrea Mitchell and Bob Baer (he who is played by George Clooney in "Syriana") on Hardball last night. But it's an amusing exchange, so I couldn't resist.
MITCHELL: Bob, would you have hesitated to follow a reporter if you thought the reporter would lead you to Osama bin Laden?

BAER: Well, we could have. John Miller from ABC went to Iraq. Peter Bergen did for CNN. They met bin Laden and we could have, you know, fired a hellfire down the signal and killed both the journalist and bin Laden. Of course you have to have ...

GAFFNEY: Would have waited till the journalist got out of the way.



BAER: Depends from what network.

MITCHELL: But Bob, seriously, do you really think—how do you think people in the field feel about all this because the “New York Times” reported that its initial sources of the James Risen story included intelligence officers who were very concerned about this program. They felt it went too far.

BAER: They‘re upset. There‘s a revolt in the intelligence community against torture, against tapping American citizens‘ phones.

MITCHELL: Now, wait a second. The White House says we don‘t torture.

BAER: Well, we outsource it to countries like Syria and Egypt. You know, call it what you will. Yes, people are upset. They‘re upset in the intelligence community. You see a lot of people leaving. I hear a lot of complaints myself, and people in the CIA that are involved in interrogations are, you know, running for their lawyers.