Accuracy in Media

The U.S. is at war and our media are helping the other side. But in order to understand how this works in practice, consider good versus bad leaks of information.

The Lewis Libby indictment stems from an investigation into a “bad” leak-talking to the press about the activities of a CIA employee, Valerie Plame, who played a role in arranging a covert operation against the Bush Administration using her husband.

An example of a “good” leak is when CIA officials helped produce a November 2 Dana Priest article in the Washington Post about “secret prisons” holding Muslim terrorists. This leak is “good” because it undermines the administration’s war on terror.

Reporters like Priest want us to think they are just doing their job. In fact, they are making it more difficult to interrogate the Muslim terrorists being held in those locations in order to obtain information that might save American lives. Khalid Shaikh Muhammad, described as the principal author of the 9/11 attacks, is one of those being held.

We read in the Sunday Times of London a report that the Bush administration “ordered an internal inquiry” into how classified data in that case was leaked to The Washington Post and a group called Human Rights Watch. It’s strange that the inquiry was first reported in a British paper. House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist then announced that they want a special congressional investigation to assess how much national security was damaged by the leak. The CIA has also reportedly asked for an investigation.

But why not a full-scale probe by a Special Prosecutor? Why not haul Priest and her sources before a grand jury?

Turning to the political situation, conservative Gary Bauer wondered why those liberal politicians who were outraged over the leak of the name of Valerie Plame had not denounced the public disclosure by the Post of a key part of the U.S. anti-terror strategy. The answer, which he fully understands, is that the Priest story is a “good” leak that undermines the Bush Administration’s policies. It also benefits the terrorists that want to kill us.

The Priest article refers to the following as sources-U.S. and foreign officials, current and former intelligence officials, etc. These are officials who betrayed their country and violated the law against disclosing classified information. They operate behind anonymity. For all we know, they could be Al Qaeda operatives or agents of a hostile power.

Priest admits that some officials at the CIA and the White House cited “the value of the program” but those are clearly not the people she relied on for her article. By exposing it, she is conveying the view of those officials who want it closed down.Exposure, she acknowledges, will “increase the risk of political condemnation at home and abroad.”

On cue, her follow-up story one day later reported that a “U.N. special rapporteur on torture” named Manfred Nowak would be conducting an investigation. It was reported elsewhere that the European Commission would investigate reports of the CIA jails and that Europe’s top human-rights organization, the Council of Europe, would look into the matter.

In her own defense, Priest reported that “The Washington Post is not publishing the names of the Eastern European countries involved in the covert program, at the request of senior U.S. officials. They argued that the disclosure might disrupt counterterrorism efforts in those countries and elsewhere and could make them targets of possible terrorist retaliation.”

So Priest was not entirely acting in a subversive manner. Thank heavens for small favors.

No matter. That so-called human-rights organization, Human Rights Watch, claimed to identify Poland and Romania as countries that were used by the CIA in this operation. It provided this information to the AFP wire service and a Douglas Waller story in Time magazine, which said that “At the request of senior U.S. officials, the Post didn’t identify the East European sites. But Human Rights Watch, which has tracked flight routes for a Boeing 737 the CIA has used to transport prisoners, says agency detention facilities have probably been in Poland and Romania, staunch U.S. allies in the Iraq war.”

So Waller was willing to go further than Priest. And if his story undermines our staunch allies in the Iraq war, so be it.  That’s just tough, from his perspective.

Mark Garlasco, a “military expert from the Human Rights Watch,” was cited as a source for the information for AFP.  It turns out that he once worked at the Pentagon.

He sounds like a good place to start, in terms of finding out where this “good leak” came from.

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