As of this writing, the media have gone three days since publicizing classified information that undermines our allies in the War on Terror in the lead story of every news outlet in the country. Unfortunately, the incidence of publication multiply while the respites between media sabotage grow ever-shorter.
On Tuesday, the New York Times published a classified memo indicating the United States had lost confidence in Iraqi President Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. Written by Stephen Hadley, a member of the National Security Council, the memo alleged that Maliki painted an overly rosy picture of “Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish partnership,” and “the reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action.” And it worried he received tainted information form the Shi’ite Dawa Party. (Which the Left has likened to the supposed neoconservative captivity of President Bush. Somehow, the media never fret that Democratic presidents are hearing only from a coterie of leftists, socialists, and fellow travelers; that would be “McCarthyism.”)
The subsequent postponing of the Bush-Maliki meeting could be the least deleterious effect the publication has on free Iraq. Aside from eroding support for an already ailing Iraqi president and creating a tense wedge between the United States and her most vital allies in the central front of the terror war, the New York Times literally telegraphed our plans to the enemy, allowing them to foment a more informed opposition. If the terrorists are able to parlay the NYT’s new perestroika policy with U.S. classified information into action, it could cripple the Maliki government, now struggling to establish a non-sectarian democratic government in the heart of the Muslim world.
The Hadley memo listed nine steps Maliki should take to sure up his authority and multiple steps America can take to assist. For instance, one of the specific planks is “Convince Maliki to deliver on key actions that might reassure Sunnis (open banks and direct electricity rebuilding in Sunni areas, depoliticize hospitals).” Should Maliki do so, guess which structures will be al-Qaeda’s top targets? Hadley’s now-public manifesto also names political leaders the U.S. and Maliki wish to court. Specifically, Hadley suggests breaking Maliki’s alliance with radical Islamist Muqtada al-Sadr in favor of ties with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. Terrorists can now target their activities to cement the Maliki-Muqtada entente and sow division with al-Hakim. Or, as Hadley advises negotiating with Iran and Syria, perhaps the “insurgents” can exploit the latter regime’s expertise in assassinating rival political figures.
Lest the jihadists assume this was mere speculation, the NYT obliged, “The official [who furnished the memo] said some of the steps projected in the document were being carried out.”
Elsewhere, Hadley recommends the U.S. government increase troop levels (not a bad idea), pressure “Saudi Arabia to play a leadership role on Iraq [sic.],” recommit to the Arab-Israeli “peace” talks, and have Condoleeza Rice hold “an Iraq-plus-neighbors meeting in the region in early December.”
The mere publication may have been illegal. FrontPage Magazine columnist and Professor Emeritus at Brooklyn Law School Henry Holzer has argued persuasively that the Times committed treason by publishing the NSA wiretapping program. He wrote Title 18, Section 793 of the United States Code penalized those “having unauthorized possession of…any document…or information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation, [or who] willfully communicates…the same to any person not entitled to receive it.” The Hadley memo was likely classified Top Secret, which could net 10 years in prison. The old gray lady claims it merely “read and transcribed” the memo, thus never coming into “possession” of the document (although it certainly possessed “information relating to the national defense”). However, whoever leaked this to the media would not be above the law.
The administration – and all who put national security above partisan advantage – will have to rely on the crushing weight of the law to stop the media’s pell-mell rush to sabotage the president (not a new posture when the incumbent is a Republican, but a game with terrifying stakes in the midst of a War on Terror). Intellectually, the prestige outlets have lionized those doing the most damage. NYT reporter James Risen told Katie Couric that the people who broke the law to leak the NSA wiretapping story in January “were truly American patriots.”
Nor is concern over terrorist retribution merely theoretical. Dana Priest’s Washington Post expose of CIA “rendition” may have sparked an al-Qaeda bombing in Jordan one week to the day after the publication of his story. This summer, President Bush stated publishing the details of a classified program to monitor terrorists’ funding networks “does great harm” – upon which the media rewarded him with more sensitive, war-related leaks.
The closest the administration has come to plugging the source of these covert disclosures came when the House Intelligence Committee suspended Democratic staffer Larry Hanauer upon suspicions he leaked a classified National Intelligence Estimate report on Iraq. However, last week outgoing Chairman Pete Hoekstra, R-MI, dropped an investigation and “restored” Hanauer’s security clearance.
With the Democratic sweep of Congress, one can only speculate how many more classified leaks the media will eagerly serve up to a thankful terrorist world – or how many American soldiers will die as a result of the media's reckless drive to stop a war they oppose and destroy a president they despise.