Thursday, October 20, 2005

Selective Outrage

If Scooter Libby and/or Karl Rove are indicted in the Valerie Plame affair, it will be a genuine rarity in Washington: someone actually being punished for leaking classified information.

Of course, there is more than an element of hypocrisy in all of this. First of all, there is demonstrable proof that Ms. Plame wasn't an CIA undercover operative at the time her identity was leaked to Bob Novak. Indeed, there is some evidence that Ms. Plame's professional affiliation was hardly a secret in Washington, so disclosing her status as a CIA employee does not meet the requirements of the law that prohibit divulging the name of an undercover agent.

Still, the left is positively salivating over the prospect that administration officials may be charged in the Plame case, perhaps on some sort of conspiracy charge, though such an allegations would be difficult to prove. And, if you don't believe the MSM is chortling over this one, consider this recent article by the Associated Press's Pete Yost. Or another offering by the same writer, suggesting that a "blame the media" strategy won't work. A MSM that is now worried about Saddam getting a fair trial is ready to measure Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby and Karl Rove for prison jumpsuits.

It's a classic case of selective outrage. As noted previously in this blog, there have been at least 600 leaks of classified information over the past decade. That total reflects the number of FBI investigations discovered after sensitive information winds up in the public domain, usually through a leak to a media outlet. Collectively, these leaks have caused serious damage to our national security, resulting in compromised collection efforts, and less information from sensitive sources. The media response? A shrug and a yawn, at best.

The MSM also had little interest in Sandy Berger's theft of classified documents from the National Archive. To this day, we still don't know the details of those purloined documents, and for that matter, who may have accessed the information it left the secure storage facility. For his crime--mishandling classified documents--Berger paid a $10,000 fine and lost his security clearance for three years. Ditto for that former DOD official who passed information to an Israeli lobbying group, which (presumably) passed it on to Tel Aviv. He hasn't been sentenced (yet), but if Berger's penalties are any indication, that DOD staffer won't be wearing an orange jumpsuit. Both cases represent a serious breach of national security, but you wouldn't know that by MSM coverage of these events.

The Plame affair is nothing more than a case of selective outrage. Because the episode involved the Bush White House, it 's big news, and worthy of non-stop coverage and speculation. Meanwhile, genuine security lapses go unreported, and damage to our intelligence efforts continues to mount. But it's a non-story, because it doesn't involve the right people (read: Republicans), and besides, consistent prosecution of security breaches would reduce (or even elminate) a key source of information for those coveted media "exclusives."

Reading and watching the MSM, you'd think the Plame affair was the security scandal of the century. It isn't. Meanwhile, genuine scandals--such as Able Danger--are pushed to the back pages, or they aren't covered at all. If you were watching C-SPAN Wednesday night, you learned that the Able Danger intelligence team identified the threat to the USS Cole two weeks before it was attacked in Yemen. You also learned that some members of the team were never interviewed by the 9-11 Commission, and that documents from Able Danger (presumably destroyed) still exist. I'm not an editor or news executive, but that folks, seems to be a genuine security scandal. So where's the outrage? Perhaps if we could somehow link Able Danger to Karl Rove or Scooter Libby, the MSM might finally be willing to take a look.

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