The Right Coast

December 20, 2005
By Tom Smith

So the President of the United States asks the publisher of the New York Times not to publish the existence of a highly classified signals intelligence operation, that has actually allowed the country to thwart planned terrorist attacks, because it will undermine our ability to do so in the future. But the Times decides, nope, they will publish it anyway, because they think they should, and the publication just happens to come on the brink of an important vote on the PATRIOT act, and just in time to help promote the sales of a new book by a NYT writer. And while fair minds can differ about the legality of the NSA program (though I think any President who really felt the burden of defending this country from such things as WMD attacks on our cities, for God's sake, would have done exactly the same thing), there is no doubt whatever that the leaks from which this story came are serious felonies, not to mention shameful acts, as the President called them. This is not some run of mill DC leak. This was a leak that very well might compromise a program that for all we know is the only reason some attacks that would have been successful, failed. I mean, did it cross the minds of any of the geniuses at the Times that people, possibly thousands of people, might die because of their decision? I feel anxious that I might give a student a C+ if he deserves a B, because it might conceivably affect his legal career. Who just glibly decides to kick the legs out from under a major intelligence operation, that appears to be working, because they disagree with the President politically? Outrageous does not cover it. Shameful is an understatement. It is in that category of Nazis marching in Skokie, except much more consequential -- a moral crime we decline to make illegal for the sake of constitutional values, but still an utterly despicable act. If Times reporters end up sitting in jail, it will be richly deserved.

Others have already said this, but it bears repeating. DOJ should investigate these leaks aggressively. The way to do that is to swear in a special prosecutor, some red meat, hardened, arrow straight US attorney type, impanel a grand jury, subpoena the NYT reporters, ask them under oath who all of their sources were, and if they don't promptly answer, put them in jail to ponder the true meaning of patriotism. What would be more just would be to put them on a burial detail in Iraq, so they could see the handiwork of the monsters they abetted with their Watergate nostalgia fantasy. The leakers themselves should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The ten year maximum sounds about right.