The Secrecy Charade

Christopher Buckley, whose book “Thank You for Not Smoking” was just adapted for the screen, has said that the difficulty of writing satire in Washington is that your most outrageous idea gets trumped by the next day’s headlines.

Such is the case with the issue of leaks — particularly in the last couple weeks.

First, of course, came the ironic revelation that the pre-eminent anti-leaker, President Bush, authorized the leak of classified information via Lewis “Scooter” Libby.Then, the House Intelligence Committee announced it was against leaks — but not the selective kind the White House uses to bolster its shaky arguments. It was against leaks like the ones to the New York Times, which uncovered the NSA’s secret domestic wiretapping program.

That program may well be illegal, and if the committee had done its job it might have been stopped. But no mind, let’s scapegoat the leakers for revealing to the world what the panel couldn’t find out on its own: “As a direct result of this illegal compromise of classified information, the ability of the United States to protect itself from terrorists has been compromised,” the committee announced.

Did that pompousness go unchecked? Fate wouldn’t let such a thing happen, as Buckley knows. A few days ago, we learned what an intelligence compromise could really be: the LA Times reported that for 40 bucks, a person can buy a computer flash drive at a bazaar in Baghram, Afghanistan, which contains:

– the identities of Afghan sources spying for U.S. Special Forces;
– identities of U.S. military personnel working in Afghanistan;
– assessments of targets;
– descriptions of American bases and their defenses; and
– maneuvers by the U.S. to remove or marginalize Afghan government officials it considers a problem.

That’s just about everything but the location of the washrooms in the officer’s quarters. But it doesn’t appear to jeopardize anyone’s campaign, so it probably won’t get its own fiery denunciation from the intelligence committee. Since it doesn’t appear to have come from the White House, it won’t grab headlines across the country. Come to think of it, maybe it’s not such big news after all. One can only wonder what the next big news will be.