Oh we can beat them, for ever and ever
Then we could be Heroes, just for one day"
Tonight the news swirls further with the allegation that senior government officials leaked to the press that someone was a CIA operative in retaliation for a public statement made by the alleged operative's husband. The CIA takes the allegation seriously enough to have requested the Justice Department to look into it.
I don't pretend to know enough about the facts, or anything about the truth of the most serious allegations. It apparently is not in dispute that the journalist Robert Novak blew the CIA operative's cover. I've read the July 14 column by Mr. Novak, which names the woman in question and her role as a CIA operative. Although the column is not entirely free from ambiguity, the same paragraph features a reference to "two senior administration officials". The dispute is whether, as appears likely, administration officials leaked to this agent of the press the identity of a CIA operative.
I find that courts or inquiries are better than weblogs by news readers to sort out what really happened. But I'm intrigued by this issue. This is the year in which conservative columnist Ann Coulter, canny in realizing what sells books, named her latest attack on liberals "Treason".
This is the year in which we went to war in search of "weapons of mass destruction" based on inadequate intelligence. Indeed, a public unveiling of a flaw in the presentation of what the intelligence did show is directly linked to the alleged "leak". This is the year in which in my own current adopted state, local officials actually utilized the Department of Homeland Security to try to track down Democratic lawmakers who left the state in order to defeat a quorum for a redistricting effort.
I remember Oliver North, testifying before Congress that the need to fight Communism justified violation of the law. When Congress had cut off aid to the Nicaraguan contras, Mr. North nonetheless participated in the Iran/Contra fiasco, which circumvented the ban. Later, Republican senators and representatives praised him as an "American hero".
I must admit that I'm old-fashioned on the traditional issue of whether people should follow the law. I do not believe that Mr. Clinton should have played games with the truth at his deposition over his witless involvement with an intern. I do not believe Mr. North is a hero for assisting our government in circumventing the law, in the name of his "superior" understanding of national security.
I have mixed feelings about Mr. Novak. I support freedom of the press. Mr. Novak certainly had the right to print that someone is a CIA operative. But would a responsible journalist do so, when it is at best a needless and dangerous non-sequitur to his story, and at worst an act of conspiracy in political retaliation? It's a tough call--but I think he acted inconsistently with good judgment by throwing this "toss off" in his column.
I have no mixed feelings if, indeed, someone leaked the identity of a CIA agent to the press. I'm not an unabridged fan of the CIA, but anyone can see that blowing someone's cover might put someone needlessly in harm's way.
I get troubled by the way in which our political discourse takes place in this country. During the necessary, and too-long-delayed efforts by the prior administration to deal with the nightmare of ethnic discord in the wake of Yugoslavia's disintegration, congresspeople from the right assailed the moral authority of the Clinton administration to head up a foreign intervention. The same congresspeople who used such intensely partisan language about a military action while our troops were in the field now decry any critique of the sadly mishandled occupation of Iraq. Yet the
fact that our military has done its job as admirably as possible, even when faced with a mission plan that seems
ill-, or non-, conceived, does not make the Iraqi situation anything but a potential quagmire. The party currently in power suffers from the sad delusion that they are the "true Americans", and that those to their left are somehow not.
We see the dangers of this approach daily, as we live in a world of the Patriot Act, of "going it alone" rather than working with other western democracies to try to unravel the mess in Iraq, and of erosion of the separation of church and state.
I'm troubled by so many things, though, that are not particularly right/left partisan in nature. I'm troubled by the notion that a fellow serving as a chaplain at Guatanamo Bay may have been smuggling out information to assist terrorists. I am troubled that Mr. Blair's "New Labour" movement, which I felt offered a hope to modestly reverse the rightward shift in the UK (and ultimately, here) has gotten bogged down in the scandals surrounding the Iraqi matter. I am troubled that neither the US modestly left nor the more forthright US right seems to have a coherent domestic and foreign policy agenda. It's a drifting time we're in. The intense partisanship of the past ten years has begun to fray the fabric a bit.
I remember watching the news the night the Berlin Wall began to come down. I never thought I'd live to see it come down without force. I never thought I'd see a "velvet revolution" in Czechoslovakia, nor the first glimmers of hope about democracy in Russia.
It's a difficult, dangerous world still. But so much has changed. This is why it makes me sad when the allegation is made that someone treasonously "outed" a CIA agent for political reasons. It makes me sad when people defend invasions of civil liberties as essential to the "war on terrorism". It makes me sad that we finally recognize our need for homeland security, but then don't take the steps to secure our power grid, our water supply, and our transportation infrastructure.
I don't know if Robert Novak got an illegal leak, or if his column was just being grandiose. But it makes me sad when he could not tell his story without "outing" an agent, and it makes me sad when people on the right pretend the rules shouldn't apply to them.
I've been pleased that Mr. Bush's spokespeople have supported an investigation. But true democracy will depend on whether, when the facts are known, they are revealed.
I still remember how Mr. North "took the fall" for his superiors, and the cover-up that was Iran/Contra. I'd like to learn the truth about this Novak incident.