When Are Leaks Okay?

The December 15 disclosure by The New York Times that President Bush had authorized eavesdropping on suspected terrorist connected telephone conversations inside the United States has developed into a national debate about the legality of such an intelligence operation.

There have been allegations of overstepping presidential authority and even criminal action being taken by the administration. Seldom is it mentioned that Congress was given a detailed briefing on the special program.

Even the New York Times hid that element of the story, placing one it in the 22nd paragraph of its very lengthy article, writing, “After the special program started, Congressional leaders from both political parties were brought to Vice President Dick Cheney’s office in the White House. The leaders, who included the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House intelligence committees, learned of the N.S.A. operation from Mr. Cheney, General Michael V. Hayden of the Air Force, who was then the agency’s director and is now the principal deputy director of national intelligence, and George J. Tenet, then director of the C.I.A., officials said.”

What is missing from the Times article and most media reports since the story unfolded, is an urgent call to immediately discover and prosecute the parties who leaked the information. In fact, the Times article states, “Nearly a dozen current and former officials, who were granted anonymity because of the classified nature of the program, discussed it with reporters….”

Even these individuals should be made party to a serious investigation, because such disclosures during a time of war could be considered treason.

The President has pointed out how the enemy was aided when it was disclosed that Al Qaeda cell phone conversations were being monitored. The enemy quit using cell phones at that point and vital intelligence information was lost.

It is quite telling to note, that the New York Times and all the mainstream media that cried out thousands upon thousands of times demanding the identity of the person who leaked the identity of Valerie Plame are silent on the same demand for identity disclosure in the N.S.A. leak story.

Plane, who had once been an undercover C.I.A. agent, was not harmed because she was no longer a covert agent. But, the media demanded the name of the leaker in that case and is not making the same demands concerning the National Security Agency eavesdropping leak.

It is far more serious to have disclosed the fact that overseas telephone calls to suspected terrorist sympathizers in the United States are being monitored. This is information that the enemy can now use to its advantage, adding to American difficulties in the War on Terror. The disclosure assuredly aids the enemy…but, where are the media cries to find the leaker?