Washington’s blabocracy is endangering our national security.
The next time President Donald J. Trump thinks about national-security leakers, he should shout this four-letter word:
Washington has become riddled with leaks. They far exceed gossip whispered to journalists to hamper political rivals. Breaking news that Steve Bannon oversalts his eggs or Reince Priebus blasts his speaker phone would be distracting and foster strife, not harmony. Such infantilism merits discipline or, ultimately, dismissal.
Relentless leaks of state secrets are something completely different.
When reports of President Trump’s combative discussion with Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull emerged in February, they reflected poorly on Trump. This may have been what senior officials intended when they peddled these secrets. These leakers also sent world leaders a simple message: Whatever you tell Trump may be in the papers within hours. So, watch your words. Or avoid his calls.
This obstructs U.S. diplomacy.
Likewise, one or more leakers gave the Washington Post secrets about Trump’s discussions with Russian diplomats about ISIS’s plans to bomb jets with weaponized laptops. Reports that Israel uncovered this plot seemed designed to portray Trump as reckless with foreign intelligence. But the leakers, not Trump, blasted the Israeli angle worldwide.
Notorious leaks about ISIS’s deadly attack on Ariana Grande’s concert in Manchester, England, appeared crafted to humiliate Trump during his European tour. This leak earned a public rebuke by British prime minister Theresa May and a high-profile, albeit temporary, suspension in Anglo-American intelligence sharing.
Washington’s blabocracy pre-dates Trump. Soon after Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden, word spilled on how America tapped Dr. Shakil Afridi to pay a house call on a Pakistani residence and confirm that it was bin Laden’s home. Perhaps some Obamite wanted the world to know how clever the previous administration was. Alas, this leak outed Dr. Afridi. He now is serving a 33-year prison sentence for cooperating with Washington. The enemy now knows this technique. Pro-U.S. physicians who might want to help America fight radical Islamic terrorism now will think thrice before doing so.
Under G. W. Bush, some idiot revealed that America had intercepted bin Laden’s satellite phone in Tora Bora, Afghanistan. Bin Laden’s line soon went dead.
A former Green Beret, Lt. Colonel Michael G. Waltz, explained on Tuesday’s Fox & Friends: “ISIS, al-Qaeda, and these other groups have English-speaking cells that scour American newspapers and look for leaks, so that they can react and change their tactics.”
“I believe when you leak the kind of information that seems to be routinely leaked, at a high, high level of classification,” homeland-security secretary John Kelly told NBC’s Meet the Press, “I think it’s darn close to treason.”
“The main felony that can (and should) be charged in this situation is the Espionage Act (18 USC 793),” former U.S. attorney and counter-terrorism specialist Andrew McCarthy told me. “Subsections (d) and (f) call for a penalty of up to ten years in prison. It is really essential to prosecute some people, to stop these leaks.”
Today, amid Washington’s culture of impunity, there is no such price to be paid. So, why not blab to one’s friends in the media, show them how important you are, and – if you are a Trump-hating, Hillary-loving Obama holdover at the White House, State Department, or CIA, etc. – resist the president of the United States, whose downfall you plot daily?
President Trump must lead the charge against these scoundrels. He should deliver a major, nationally televised speech from the Washington Convention Center. He should address as many officials with security clearances as the place can hold. He should remind them, concretely, how these leaks corrode U.S. national security. Trump should announce that the Justice Department and FBI immediately will start identifying these leakers, arresting them, and trying them. If convicted, they will serve years of hard time punching license plates rather than phoning journalists.
This zero-tolerance approach to national-security leakers deserves a new slogan:
Lock them up!
A version of this piece also appeared on National Review Online.