Soft Despotism and the Leaky State
In early summer’s heat, we are being distracted by a battle between the heroes of protecting intelligence and those seemingly bent on leaking it. This is an issue vital to protecting U.S. security; each leak undermines our security and makes it harder to collect intelligence, whether alone, with our allies or through short-term friends. But the way in which the sides have arrayed to do battle is pure election-year grandstanding. The question is whether the elected officials in the fray really care about U.S. security, unless you define “caring” as seeking war with Syria and Iran.
Take, for example, Senator John McCain’s warning that Obama’s leaking sycophants damage U.S. security. That is true. But recall that it was McCain who, from a position of authority, first described the CIA’s rendition and harsh-interrogation programs as “torture,” thereby giving political cover to Democrats who wished to undermine U.S. defense and hurt the CIA. Obama and the citizens of the world who run his party ran through the hole opened by McCain and ended the CIA’s most successful and life-saving counterterrorism program. We now have had three years of no new Al Qaeda or Islamist leaders entering the rendition program to supply data to protect U.S. lives and property.
What this fracas over leaks should say to Americans is not just that intelligence disclosures are illegal (they are); that they undermine U.S. security and put our intelligence officers, their assets, soldiers, and Marines at risk (they do); and that every leak requires more funds and officers to replace the help of foreign intelligence services who lose their taste for aiding us because of leaks (it does). What it also should say is that the routine, nonchalant leaking of intelligence also underscores what we are becoming as a nation—namely, an increasingly lawless nation governed by self-appointed, Ivy League-bred aristocrats who believe they are above the law.