(Host) Commentator Bill Seamans offers his thoughts on leaking confidential documents.
(Seamans) Washington has been called “Sieve City” where, it is said, leaking a story has become a way of life. When newspaper readers picked up the New York Times the other day we were shaken out of the lethargy of Bushian normalcy by the big front-page headline: “U.S. PLAN FOR IRAQ IS SAID TO INCLUDE ATTACK ON 3 SIDES.” The plan detailed a concept for attacking Iraq with up to 250,000 troops, hundreds of warplanes and the Navy presumably lobbing missiles from the sea.
The information was contained in what was called a “highly classified document” leaked to the New York Times by someone described only as “a person familiar with the document.” Why did he hand the Times such sensitive top secret military information? Because he was “frustrated” over what he thought was an “insufficiently creative” plan, said the Times. Now this was the kind of stuff an enemy spy could really be proud of because it revealed some of the secret strategy our top military brass were thinking about on how to end Saddam Hussein’s regime.
But I noticed that in the days following there has been no loud and angry hue and cry by President Bush over the leaking of such highly classified military information. Even Attorney General John Ashcroft, who in his war on terrorism has been called “the minister of fear” by the Washington Post, has not accused the anonymous leaker of being unpatriotic. And why hasn’t Ashcroft’s FBI simply ticked off the list of all those known to be familiar with the highly classified document and uncovered this stealthy purveyor of U.S. military secrets?
The reason appears to be that this how-we-might-attack-Iraq story has all the earmarks, fingerprints, paper and ink type, DNA – whatever – of a deliberately planned leak by what the president’s critics call the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld War Cabinet. Was this a classic Sieve City leak used to sound out how we, the people, really feel about getting involved in a war that surely would cause many American casualties? Then again, this could have been a well-intentioned effort to focus the public’s attention on the reality that time is pressing on the need to end Saddam Hussein’s mass destruction threat to our Middle East oil sources.
However – surprisingly – the story seems to have faded away because the TV talking heads apparently have been diverted by the number of new terrorism warnings issued by the White House – and by the Enron, World-Com, Halliburton, Harken, et cetera, et cetera, domestic mass destruction debacle.
And I’ll bet the person who leaked that attack story to the Times also will fade away. After all, like they say, leaking is a way of life in Sieve City.
This is Bill Seamans.
Award-winning journalist Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East.