Jewish World Review Oct. 8, 2003 / 12 Tishrei, 5764

Tony Blankley

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

The leakers' agony | As events unfold from the white hot revelation that two senior Bush administration officials may have leaked the identity of a covert CIA employee, along with the political and governmental effects, do not neglect the very human drama of the story. As a former Reagan White House staffer, and as Newt Gingrich's press secretary for seven years, I have been involved in leak hunts — both as the hunter and the(falsely) hunted.Major leak hunts are always damaging to the institutions in which they occur. The greatest of WhiteHouse scandal/tragedies — Watergate — mostprobably started when a "plumber's unit was created to hunt down a leak. And, in the related activity of seeking a mole (an enemy double agent) inside intelligence agencies, both the CIA and British Intelligence almost ripped themselves apart during the 1960s and 1970s in their various hunts for disloyal employees.

But unlike most leak hunts (and all mole hunts), the presumed leakers in this case are not consciously disloyal to President Bush: quite the contrary. Assuming the basic outlines of the story are true, these leakers were trying to protect the president from what the leakers thought were disloyal CIA employees. The White House and the CIA have been in almost open conflict over the characterization of CIA intelligence assessments related to Iraq and WMD for a half a year now. When CIA Director George Tenet publicly fell on his sword (after being pressed to do so by senior officials at the White House) over responsibility for the 16 words in the president's State of the Union address, CIA employees were out the same day backgrounding reporters on why it was not really Mr. Tenet's or the CIA's fault. At a deeper level, there is a strategic policy difference between the institutional CIA view (which tends to see terrorism as an inextinguishable fever that can at best be kept at a relatively low temperature) and the White House view (that it is an enemy that is susceptible to definitive defeat if enough resources and shrewd policies can be brought to bear against it).

The partially submerged CIA-White House struggle exploded when Ambassador Joseph Wilson went public with his criticism of the president's 16-word African uranium claim. Bush loyalists were justifiably outraged. Dark suspicions of CIA disloyalty hit critical mass. Their blood was up.

It was at that point that the alleged leak occurred. Without hazarding a guess as to the names of the leakers, it is overwhelmingly likely that they were, and are, passionate Bush loyalists (unlike in previous administrations, I do not know a single senior White House official who is not deeply, emotionally committed to the president. There are few if any time -servers on his staff.) Moreover, the men and women with responsibilities for the war on terrorism (out of which pool, doubtlessly would be found the leakers), are passionately committed to the rightness of the president's antiterrorism policies. For them (and for many other Americans), his personal and policy success is actually a matter of national life or death.

Donate to JWR

Usually, leak hunts are targeted on people suspected of leaking against the institution. Such leakers either disagree with the policy of their boss, are aligned with a different political tribe in the Washington jungle or feel underappreciated by their superiors. Sometimes they are just showing off, or building relationships with reporters. In any of those circumstances, they have already emotionally disconnected themselves from the institution and superior they nominally still serve. Their highest objective is to stay hidden and survive. But almost certainly in this instance, the leakers were trying to help the president they are deeply committed to on both a personal and policy basis.

So, put yourself in the leakers' minds today. They must feel deeply conflicted. Their actions have backfired. Instead of brushing back disloyal CIA political players, there are FBI agents rifling through the White House files of the leaker's coworkers. Democratic Party partisans are crying out for special prosecutors. The president — for whom they have been loyally working 14 hours a day (probably to the significant neglect of their spouse and children) — is put on the defensive, passively expressing the hope that the Justice Department will get to the bottom of this problem. These leakers — being senior officials — understand how debilitating the investigation is to their co-workers and the president. The White House is distracted from its primary policy and political duties, while staff-to-staff relations suffer from suspicion and embarrassment.

When each of the leakers sits in his or her living room at night — three scotches on the wrong side of sobriety — painful thoughts must torment him or her. The choices are ugly. Come forward and confess, thereby saving your president but harming you and your family, perhaps irrevocably (legal costs, humiliation, financial ruin, end of career, perhaps divorce.) Sit tight, hope not to get caught and know that your silence has damaged and may destroy your president, and perhaps your country you care so deeply about. Or drown yourself in destructive behavior and try to forget. From the perspective of time, the leakers would see that the first choice is the right one.

We should all hope that he or she gains that perspective quickly.

Every weekday publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Tony Blankley is editorial page editor of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

10/01/03: Managing a scandal
09/24/03: Will we have to balance our strong ethical and religious revulsion of cloning against the danger of being surpassed by a gene-manipulated super-race?
09/17/03: The skinny on the First Ladies
09/10/03: More than cynicism will be needed to defeat prez
09/03/03: Dead Man Politickin'
08/27/03: Patience is not America's long suit
08/13/03: George Will's trifecta of punitive aspirations
07/30/03: A question for the candidates: Whose side are you on?
07/23/03: When GOPers attack their leader
07/17/03: Spanish fest mirrors U.S. elections
07/09/03: On the horns of a dilemma
06/25/03: The continuing deaths of American and British soldiers in Iraq should not be rhetorically minimized -- but sanctified
06/18/03: No reason to feel defensive about criticism of the war on terrorism
06/11/03: The Clintons — self-proclaimed geniuses — have no defense against the charge of cunning mendacity
06/04/03: George 'Machiavelli' Bush? Nah
05/28/03: When 'progressives' become reactionaries
05/21/03: Yes, this conservative is defending the NYTimes
05/14/03: Playing the politics of deflation
05/07/03: Only the stupid could think it'll be the economy: Comparing the Bushes 04/30/03: How to squelch increasing Iraqi distrust of America
04/25/03: Winning the war, losing the peace
04/16/03: Our own domestic Senate Republican Guard better be prepared for a grinding
04/03/03: At this human moment we need to act like humans, not just calculating analysts
04/02/03: If we could only draft Jennings' eyebrow to the cause, we wouldn't need the 4th Armored Division?
03/26/03: This war is showing the world who we really are
03/19/03: Time for America to laugh at itself
03/13/03: They're coming out of the woodwork: Russert, Buchanan and Moran
03/05/03: Franc-tireur
02/26/03: World history is shifting under our feet --- even our most experienced statesmen are, effectively, inexperienced
02/19/03: The shame! We've mischaracterized the French 02/12/03: Schroeder and Chirac will be disproportionately undercutting their interests
02/05/03: We need to rise above our temporary anger and seek to preserve our bonds with our European cousins
01/29/03: Who is President Bush's stupidest opponent: Saddam Hussein or Tom Daschle?
01/22/03: We call them our European cousins --- but I demand a DNA test
01/16/03: Dems bare partisan teeth
01/02/03: Before the cheering must come the struggle
12/27/02: Long ago and far away
12/18/02: Be glad that Gore's gone?
12/11/02: What fun! A titanic, once-in-a-century partisan battle royal is in the offing
12/04/02: Kerry atwitter
11/27/02: The unThankful list
11/20/02: First the scare, then the yawn
11/13/02: It's going to be a long two years for Lefty Pelosi and the Frisco Dems
11/06/02: Technology: A pollster's worst enemy --- thank goodness!
10/31/02: Watch this election's Wheel of Fate
10/23/02: The Ari and Colin Show: Politics has never been, well, more vaudeville-like
10/09/02: Bush beats drums of realism
10/02/02: Needed: A political chromatograph to detect any true statements in the public domain
09/25/02: Buchanan's new mag
09/18/02: There are many forms of peace
09/11/02: The imperial period of our history starts
09/04/02: Memo to Powell: In periods of upheaval, the refusal to act gives aid to those bent on destruction
08/30/02: Logging old growth is a sham issue

© 2002, Creators Syndicate