As Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the House intelligence committee, approvingly put it in August 2007: "The Justice Department is going after those who violated their oath of office by giving classified information to reporters. Those reporters will be sitting in jail by the end of the year until they reveal their sources."
Violated their oath of office?! Sounds like revealing classified information is pretty serious.
Well, maybe it depends on who's doing it. Today, The Hill reports on a classified intelligence briefing held yesterday by the House intelligence committee -- using Hoekstra as a source:
Hoekstra did not attend the hearing, but said he later spoke with Republicans on the subcommittee who did. He said he came away with even more proof that the enhanced interrogation techniques employed by the CIA proved effective.
"I think the people who were at the hearing, in my opinion, clearly indicated that the enhanced interrogation techniques worked," Hoekstra said.
Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), a member of the subcommittee who attended the hearing, concurred with Hoekstra.
"The hearing did address the enhanced interrogation techniques that have been much in the news lately," Kline said, noting that he was intentionally choosing his words carefully in observance of the committee rules and the nature of the information presented.
"Based on what I heard and the documents I have seen, I came away with a very clear impression that we did gather information that did disrupt terrorist plots," Kline said.
Democrats on the committee, understandably, are slamming Republicans for publicly disclosing classified information.
"I am absolutely shocked that members of the Intelligence committee who attended a closed-door hearing ... then walked out that hearing -- early, by the way -- and characterized anything that happened in that hearing," said Intelligence Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chairwoman Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). "My understanding is that's a violation of the rules. It may be more than that."
Of course, the information that Republicans told The Hill is far less specific in nature than the information leaked to the Times about the warrantless wiretapping program. Still, if something's classified, it's classified. Members don't get to make their own judgments about degrees of classification -- in part for exactly this reason.
As for the substance of the GOP claims about what was learned in the hearing, it's hard to evaluate them without more detail on what crucial information was allegedly obtained through torture. But it's worth noting that few torture opponents have maintained that the practice never obtained any usable intel whatsoever. Rather, they argue that the costs -- in terms of false leads, and damage to our international reputation, among other things -- outweigh the benefits.
That issue aside, we look forward to Rep. Hoekstra's forthcoming declaration that he and his Republican colleagues have violated their oaths of office by leaking classified information. Though given Hoekstra's less than sterling reputation for logical consistency, maybe we shouldn't hold our breath.