Monday, May 16, 2005

What's In a Number?

Let's start with 600. Does that ring a bell? Readers of this blog might associate that figure with the number of leaks of classified information to the media over the past 10 years.

Perhaps we should raise the number to 601, because it looks like another government official has been speaking to the press, with devastating consequences. A few days ago, Newsweek reported that the government was investigating allegations that U.S. interrogators desecrated a copy of the Koran, in an effort to "shake up" Al-Qaida detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

There are a couple of serious problems here. First, that is not an acceptable interrogation technique, and secondly, the claim appears to be false. Newsweek editors have spent the past 24 hours or so in full damage control mode, after their anonmyous "source" apparently backtracked on his original claim regarding the alleged Koran desecration.

Newsweek has offered an apology and a half-baked explanation of how its report became discredited. Unfortunately, the magazine's mea culpa is too little, too late. Since the original item appeared in the magazine, there have been anti-American riots in several Muslim countries, resulting in at least 16 deaths and scores of injuries. And, there is little reason to believe that the magazine's "apology" will do little to extinguish the anti-American flames that were stoked by the original report.

Predictably, Newsweek has its defenders. Sportscaster Jim Lampley, part of Arianna Huffington's newly-launched blog train wreck, congratulates the magazine for its "apology," then rips into the media (and conservative bloggers) for ignoring "what really happened in the 2004 elections," and the "tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians cavalierly sacrificed on the altar of Messrs. Bush/Cheney/Wolfowitz/Rumsfeld's 'pre-conceived' anti-terror initiative."

Not bad for a guy best known as a one-time college football sideline reporter, failed local news anchor and HBO boxing announcer. In the space of only two paragraphs, he manages to regurgitate most of the DNC's recent talking points. Glad to see you got the memo, Jim.

Too bad your post is riddled with half-truths and outright falsehoods? What really happened in the 2004 elections? Easy. Bush won. And, BTW, claims of election fraud in Ohio have been investigated and disproven. Meanwhile, the inquiry into voter irregularities in Wisconsin has resulted in indictments of individuals with ties to the Democratic Party. That's what happened in the 2004 election, Mr. Lampley.

Thousands of dead Iraqi civilians? Sorry, but those claims have also been debunked. The best available estimates suggest that less than 1,000 civilians died in the U.S.-led bombing campaign that inagurated Operation Iraqi Freedom. Far more Iraqis have died since then, at the hands of Islamic terrorists, hell-bent on destroying the nation's fledgling democracy. Funny, I don't hear a lot of outcry from Mr. Lampley--or anyone else on the left--regarding those victims.

But I digress. In closing, here's one more number to consider. Zero--the number of U.S. officials prosecuted for divulging classified information over the past decade. With little to fear, its no wonder that defense and diplomatic officials have been willing to chat with the press, discussing sensitive information with little regard for the consequences. Hopefully, that trend is changing. Last week, the Feds arrested a former intelligence official for allegedly passing classified information to Israel, and we can only hope that they're on the trail of the "Koran descration" source as well. In the War on Terror, sensitive information leaked carelessly to a feckless press can have deadly consequences.

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