Bad Moon Risen: Radical Bushies, "Purest" Leakers, "Complete Opposite of Plame"

Katie Couric's just-completed interview with NY Times Reporter James Risen, who broke the NSA surveillance story and is now publishing his book on the matter, 'State of War,' offered a window on the MSM view of the matter. For her questioning of Risen, give a gentlelady's 'C' to Couric, who earned the bulk of her grade by asking:

"Did [the leakers] have any sympathy or understanding about this new climate this country finds itself in and the criticism the Bush administration took prior to 9/11 for not putting the pieces together and figuring out that a terrorist attack was imminent? In other words, did they acknowledge that tough times may call for tough measures?"

In other matters:

Whether wittingly or not, Risen seemed clearly to tip his hand to the fact that the leakers were disgruntled career employees. People will recall that State Department careerist Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff, recently claimed there was "a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made.''

Along similar lines, Risen alleged that "the checks and balances that normally keep American foreign policy and national security policy toward the center kind of broke down. You had more of a radicalization, in which the career professionals were not really given a chance to forge a consensus within the administration. The principals: Rumsfeld, Cheney Tenet and Rice were meeting constantly, setting policy and never allowing the experts, the people who understand the region to have a say."

Cooed Katie: "You suggest there was a lot of power-grabbing going on."

"Yes," responded Risen, only too happy to concur.

"Power-grabbing?" How is the exercise of power by the people the president explicitly put in charge of foreign and national security policy a "grab"? Only in the minds of the liberal establishment, who believe that power rightly resides with the career 'wets' in State and the intelligence agencies.

As with Wilkerson, it sounds as if at the origin of this leak were career employees, disgruntled at being shut out of the center of the action by appointed officials.

Further to her credit, Couric did ask a question along such lines, stating 'many critics alleged your sources had serious axes to grind."

Time and again, Risen defended his sources as having the "purest" and "best" motives, springing entirely from their concern for the rule of law.

As to whether he was concerned that in light of the Justice Department investigation into the leaks he might be forced to reveal his sources, Risen was quick to claim that this was "the complete opposite of the Plame case."

True, but surely not in the way Risen meant it. The Plame case involved the 'revealing' of the identity of someone apparently already well-known in many DC circles to be a CIA employee, and a desk jockey at that who had not worked abroad in many years. The NSA affair involves the compromising of a current intelligence operation aimed at America's deadliest enemies.

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.