"The leaking of classified information is a serious issue," said [White House] spokesman, Trent Duffy.I'm linking to the NYT and quoting its article, even though the NYT is the place where the leaked information first appeared. It is a special challenge to them to report the investigate well, and we shall see how well they report it. The author of the article, David E. Sanger, does a good job, I think, even if he gives prominent place to quotes that lamely say that investigating the surveillance program ought to predominate. Here's Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union:
"The fact is that Al Qaeda's playbook is not printed on Page 1, and when America's is, it has serious ramifications. You don't need to be Sun Tzu to understand that," he said, referring to the Chinese warrior who wrote "The Art of War."
The president last week denounced in strong language the leaking of information about the agency's program, saying: "My personal opinion is it was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important program in a time of war. The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy."
"President Bush broke the law and lied to the American people when he unilaterally authorized secret wiretaps of U.S. citizens... But rather than focus on this constitutional crisis, Attorney General Gonzales is cracking down on critics of his friend and boss. Our nation is strengthened, not weakened, by those whistle-blowers who are courageous enough to speak out on violations of the law."And here's Marc Rotenberg, the executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center:
"[T]he priority at this point for the Department of Justice should be the appointment of an independent prosecutor to determine whether federal wiretap laws were violated" by the security agency program, not the leak inquiry.Sanger does call attention to the leak investigation in the Valerie Plame case, which tends to refute Romero's implication that the President is only concerned about leaks as a way to get at his critics. (I wonder if those who screamed loudest about the Plame leak and national security are equally outraged about this new leak?) Sanger also quotes Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project, "a nonprofit law firm that defends whistle-blowers," saying that "his group would not object to a limited investigation of the leak of classified information":
"But if they do a blanket witch hunt, which I fear, ... it would trample all over good government laws" intended to protect government workers who expose wrongdoing.Sanger offers a neutral-sounding account of the newspaper's role in leaking the information:
"The whole reason we have whistle-blower laws is so that government workers can act as the public's eyes and ears to expose illegality or abuse of power."
The administration first learned that The New York Times had obtained information about the secret eavesdropping program more than a year ago and expressed concern to editors that its disclosure could jeopardize terrorism investigations. The newspaper withheld the article at the time, and the government did not open a leak investigation at that time, presumably because such an inquiry might itself disclose the program.Why? Naturally, we crave more information here, but Sanger's inability to offer it does not undermine his report. The Times is part of the investigation, and Sanger can only tell us: "Bill Keller, the newspaper's executive editor, declined to comment on the leak investigation."
The newspaper did additional reporting and eventually decided to publish the article despite the continuing objections of President Bush and other top officials.
UPDATE: If you came here from Crooked Timber and want my response to the scurrilous things that were said about me there, it's here.