Sunday, March 5, 2006

It’s All Just Too Bizarre

EspionageInterior close-up as a finger edges back the drapery. Camera, assumes point-of-view to street below as drab sedan, all four doors left open like wings, spills forth uniformed men, pistols drawn. Camera zooms to man across street and under dimmed street-light, who make eye contact with commander of the sedan’s troopers, standing erect, tugging at his gloves, swagger-stick held neatly under arm. Streetlight man touches his nose, turns and disappears into the gloom, commander nods at the door below, (obscured from view) the curtain slides back across the window.


Set-up to a forties espionage film? Bogart? Cagney?


Just business-as-usual, a little nightwork within the FBI and Justice Department, on orders from the White House.


Dan Eggan at the WaPo reports

In recent weeks, dozens of employees at the CIA, the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies have been interviewed by agents from the FBI's Washington field office, who are investigating possible leaks that led to reports about secret CIA prisons and the NSA's warrantless domestic surveillance program, according to law enforcement and intelligence officials familiar with the two cases.

So, this isn’t the final closing-in on a terrorist cell or a bust that thwarts international money laundering. Not even stolen H-bomb plans on their way to some murky Middle-East destination. This coordinated effort, with all the earmarks of Mubarak’s closing down the press in Egypt or China locking up dissenters in the night, is aimed at leaks to reporters.


Dickcheney_2Well, I can certainly understand that. Leaking classified documents is treasonable. Except when all documents embarrassing to the Bush White House are classified or about to be classified or maybe will be classified after Cheney checks over the daily newspapers that his boss brags of never reading.


"If you want to rattle a snake, you must be prepared to be bitten by it," John Michuki, the internal security minister, said at a news conference, pointing his finger at journalists. Oops, sorry—wrong article. Michuki is internal security minister of Kenya. Easy mistake to make. Still, the snake analogy is interesting.


Again, from Dan Eggan’s article

Nytbillkeller"There's a tone of gleeful relish in the way they talk about dragging reporters before grand juries, their appetite for withholding information, and the hints that reporters who look too hard into the public's business risk being branded traitors," said New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller, in a statement responding to questions from The Washington Post. "I don't know how far action will follow rhetoric, but some days it sounds like the administration is declaring war at home on the values it professes to be promoting abroad."

The administration keeps dragging out the need to protect classified information which helps fight the war on terror.


Can anyone name a single document that has been disclosed giving anything useful to terrorists? Other than perhaps five or six hundred graphic pictures of Muslim prisoner abuse. Maybe some small item outlining the ways in which we ignore the Geneva Convention or our own laws about spying on our own citizens. But why quibble? The outing of Valerie Plame was embarrassing and may yet prove to be a crime, but hardly a crime useful to a foreign enemy.


Merely one among a number of Vice-Presidential crimes.


The CIA has been conducting lie-detector examinations to uncover unauthorized contact with journalists. That must boost the hell out of morale. How about giving one to Dick Cheney? Scooter Libby said his "superiors" authorized him to disclose a classified government report.Who’s superior to Scooter, except Dick? Fair’s fair, live by the sword, die by it.


An interesting issue about leaks is that they are the last resort of a bureaucracy that deeply believes politicians are doing damage to the country. Most leakage is aimed at puncturing political baloons, rather than making secrets known. Not a bad safety-valve.

Portergoss_2"It is my aim, and it is my hope, that we will witness a grand jury investigation with reporters present being asked to reveal who is leaking this information," Herr Goss, CIA Director told a Senate committee.

Ah, those fearful days of yesteryear. The Espionage Act originated in the opening days of World War I and makes it a crime for a government official with access to "national defense information" to communicate it intentionally to any unauthorized person.


A 1950 amendment aimed at Soviet spying, during a time every bit as paranoid as now, broadened the law. Since that comic congressional amendment, an unauthorized recipient of the information may not pass it on, or even to keep it to himself. The only legal recourse would be to kill oneself immediately upon receipt.


Meanwhile, like stacked up air traffic, dozens of things I want to write about circle my desk. But every day brings something so additionally outrageous from this cornered administration, it’s just too bizarre to ignore.


Forgive me.
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