Peggy Noonan’s column this weekend in the Wall Street Journal is a must read. She writes about the flood of intelligence leaks that have happened over the last few weeks and months.
What is happening with all these breaches of our national security? Why are intelligence professionals talking so much—divulging secret and sensitive information for all the world to see, and for our adversaries to contemplate?
In the past few months we have read that the U.S. penetrated al Qaeda in Yemen and foiled a terror plot; that the Stuxnet cyberworm, which caused chaos in the Iranian nuclear program, was a joint Israeli-American operation; and that President Obama personally approves every name on an expanding “kill list” of those targeted and removed from life by unmanned drones. According to the New York Times, Mr. Obama pores over “suspects’ biographies” in “what one official calls ‘the macabre ‘baseball cards’ of an unconventional war.”
What are they thinking? That in the age of Wikileaks the White House itself should be one big Wikileak?
More from the Sanger book: During the search for Osama bin Laden, American intelligence experts had a brilliant idea. Bin Laden liked to make videotapes to rouse his troops and threaten the West. Why not flood part of Pakistan with new digital cameras, each with a “unique signature” that would allow its signals to be tracked? The signal could function as a beacon for a drone. Agents got the new cameras into the distribution chain of Peshawar shops. The plan didn’t catch Osama, because he wasn’t in that area. But “traceable digital cameras are still relied on by the CIA . . . and remain highly classified.”
Well, they were.
All of this constitutes part of what California Sen. Dianne Feinstein calls an “avalanche of leaks.” After she read the Stuxnet story in the Times, she was quoted as saying “my heart stopped” as she considered possible repercussions.
Why is this happening? In part because at our highest level in politics, government and journalism, Americans continue to act as if we are talking only to ourselves. There is something narcissistic in this: Only our dialogue counts, no one else is listening, and what can they do about it if they are? There is something childish in it: Knowing secrets is cool, and telling them is cooler. But we are talking to the world. Should it know how, when and with whose assistance we gather intelligence? Should it know our methods? Will this make us safer?
It’s pretty remarkable when you have the Senior Senator from California, who is a member of the President’s party, quoted as saying her “heart stopped” after reading a news story.
Noonan points out that when you are trying to figure out why something is happening, ask, who benefits?
Here is her answer:
That is not a mystery. In all these stories, it is the president and his campaign that benefit. The common theme in the leaks is how strong and steely Mr. Obama is. He’s tough but fair, bold yet judicious, surprisingly willing to do what needs to be done. He hears everyone out, asks piercing questions, doesn’t flinch.
He is Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer.
And he is up for re-election and fighting the constant perception that he’s weak, a one-man apology tour whose foreign policy is unclear, unsure, and lacking in strategic depth.
There’s something in the leaks that is a hallmark of the Obama White House. They always misunderstand the country they seek to spin, and they always think less of it than it deserves. Why do the president’s appointees think the picture of him with a kill list in his hand makes him look good? He sits and personally decides who to kill? Americans don’t think of their presidents like that. And they don’t want to.
National security doesn’t exist to help presidents win elections. It’s not a plaything or a tool to advance one’s prospects.
Ultimately, this is why Obama is dangerous – when you cut through all the chatter and praise and leaks – you realize that he is willing to risk innocent human lives in order to get reelected.
Many compare politics to sports – and most in politics view it as a sport most of the time. But when politics uses national security it’s no longer a game.