My first reaction (and my husband’s) was that Nick Anderson’s cartoon today stereotyped Muslim men with his drawing. The second reaction was this is all too true.
Nancy Pelosi tweeted this picture with a quote from Representative Dent last night
The measure, which would ban abortion after 22 weeks of pregnancy based on the medically disputed theory that fetuses at that stage of development are capable of feeling pain, passed in a 228-to-196 vote that broke down mostly along party lines. Reflecting how little common ground the two parties share these days, just six Republicans voted against the bill; six Democrats voted for it.
“I’m not waging a war on anyone,” said Kristi Noem, Republican of South Dakota, offering a rejoinder to the Democratic assertion that Republicans have waged a war on women, a line of attack that harmed conservative candidates in 2012. “Regardless of your personal beliefs, I would hope that stopping atrocities against little babies is something we can all agree to put an end to.”
The tableau in the House chamber on Tuesday was intentionally far different from the scene last week at a meeting of the House Judiciary Committee at which all 19 of the Republicans arguing for and then voting to approve the bill were men. Republican leaders made sure that their female members were front and center for the debate this time.
Representative Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina conservative and Tea Party favorite, and Representative Marsha Blackburn, a longtime abortion opponent from Tennessee, were assigned to manage the floor debate. Representative Candice S. Miller of Michigan and Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, one of the Republican conference’s more moderate members, controlled the gavel.
But the simple math was difficult to ignore. Only 19 of the 234 Republican House members are women. Nearly all of them spoke on Tuesday. Only three Republican men were allowed to participate in the debate. Notably, Trent Franks of Arizona, the bill’s sponsor who last week caused an uproar after claiming that instances of pregnancy after rape were “very low,” said nothing from the floor.
I think that 22 weeks is getting close to the time of viability which most see as 23 to 26 weeks. As bills move ever closer to that line, those of us who agree that women have a right to choose to continue the pregnancy or not will be faced with a difficult question and one that we need to be prepared to answer: where, if anywhere, should the line be drawn?
Even if Democrats believed the political upper hand was theirs as they used the issue of reproductive rights to portray their opponents yet again as hostile and indifferent to the needs of women, it was clear that the question at hand — the termination of pregnancies that are five months or more along — was an uncomfortable one.
At a news conference Tuesday morning led by Democrats who favor abortion rights, the mood quickly turned tense after two journalists tried to press the representatives about their support for late-term abortions. Representative Diana DeGette of Colorado cut off questions after being asked whether she would draw the line at legal abortion later in pregnancy. “The Supreme Court has spoken, and this bill is unconstitutional. Next question,” she said.
As medical science advances, the time limits laid out in Roe v. Wade may no longer hold. There are medical and social costs to having a child born at 25 weeks. In a 1997 story, the New York Times reported
”At the time of Roe vs. Wade it was around 26 weeks pregnant,” Dr. Ezra Davidson, past president of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, said. ”It has come down a couple of weeks since that time.”
But many babies who survive birth at that stage have terrible problems.
”You have to temper any discussion about viability because though you may get into a 24-week period, or a 23-week period, a large portion of those infants are going to have serious disabilities,” Dr. Davidson said.
Most experts believe that the current limit of viability is 23 or 24 weeks into the normal 40-week term of pregnancy. Babies born at this stage are known as micropreemies and are extremely fragile. The typical micropreemie weighs 500 to 600 grams — slightly more than a pound — and can fit in the palm of a hand.
According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, fewer than 40 percent of infants born from 23 to 25 weeks’ gestation survive.
Moreover, Dr. William Taeusch, chief of pediatrics at San Francisco General Hospital, said: ”That’s strictly survival. That’s getting out of the hospital alive, usually at three months, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars. And if you get out of the hospital alive and you haven’t had major problems, then your chances of having a normal brain are 90 percent.”
But according to the obstetrics and gynecology group, nearly 50 percent of surviving children who weigh less than 750 grams at birth experience moderate or severe disability, including blindness and cerebral palsy.
Things haven’t really changed a great deal since 1997. This is from the Wikipedia article on fetal viability.
Of course, most women who don’t have late term abortions have a full term baby. This means the mother and hopefully father need to have jobs and assistance in caring for the baby for the next 18 years – the kind of assistance the Republicans often vote against. It means available contraception so women aren’t faced with the choice at all. It means sex ed beginning in middle schools that includes information on what it is like to care for a baby. (What happened to those programs where teens had to care for a doll that was life-like and demanded diaper changes and feedings 25/7?)
I personally have problems with late term abortions that are not for medical reasons – either the mother’s or the child’s. But I also think we should be spending what is needed to make sure those children are fed, educated and not abused. And I understand why sometimes the decision is so late.
Jessica Valenti has column in the Nation thinking through many of these issues, but it is her conclusion that sticks with me.
Abortion is complicated, as are our lives and health—and the fact that these choices are so complex and nuanced is precisely why we can’t legislate them. Wishing otherwise will never make it so.
The President, probably never believing that Assad would use chemical weapons, drew a red line. He’s been stalling around saying he needs verification, but now he has it. The question is what should we do now. I think Obama is stuck.
The United States has a long history of failed interventions. Vietnam was basically a civil war. We armed the Taliban when they were our “friends”. We actually started a civil war in Iraq by stupidly dismissing all the Baathists saying they can’t be part of any new Iraqi government. Now we are again taking sides against the Baathist who currently rule Syria. My big fear is that the region will explode into a Sunni v. Shia conflict and we will be seen as taking sides.
My strong view, vented last night as I absorbed this stunning collapse of nerve, is that we shouldn’t fight at all. We are damn lucky to have gotten every GI out of Iraq, and the notion of being sucked back into that region again – and to join sides in a sectarian conflict – is a betrayal of everything this president has said and stood for. It’s a slap in the face for everyone who backed him because he said he wouldn’t be another Bush or McCain or Clinton. If he intervenes in Syria, he will have no credibility left with those of us who have supported his largely sane and prudent foreign policy so far. Libya was bad enough – and look at the consequences. But Syria? And the entire Middle East? Is he out of his mind?
And can you think of a dumber war than this one?
The man who said he would never engage in a dumb war is apparently preparing to join the dumbest war since … well, Iraq.
My only hope right now is that we can somehow use our threat of intervention to maneuver some type of international peace keeping force while we try to bring both sides to a negotiating table. And let us hope that President Obama knows to get Congress involved, gets a UN resolution and the Arab League to agree before we take any action.
One reason I supported Obama so passionately in 2008 and 2012 was because I thought he understood this and had the spine to stand up to drama queens like McCain and armchair generals like William Jefferson Clinton. But it is beginning to appear that this president isn’t actually that strong. We voted for him … and he’s giving us Clinton’s and McCain’s foreign policy. If Cameron and Hollande want to pull another Suez, for Pete’s sake be Eisenhower – not Kennedy.
My cri de coeur is here. Don’t do it, Mr President. And don’t you dare involve us in another war without a full Congressional vote and national debate. That wouldn’t just be a mistake; it would be a betrayal.
I just can’t figure Edward Snowden. The more little pieces I hear about and read about him, the more I wonder about him and his motivation. This is why I found Jonathan Capehart’s piece so interesting. Writing in the Washington Post’s Post Partisan blog, Capehart begins
A sidewalk encounter with a friend drove home my conflicted feelings about Edward Snowden. The national-security leaker was surely a “narcissist,” he said, but Snowden was definitely “a hero.” And the more my friend talked about the reaction to Snowden, especially that of congressional Democrats, the more angry his own reaction appeared to become. Part of me wished I could work up that much passion for this self-professed champion of government transparency. Alas, I can’t.
I feel the same way.
Snowden told the Guardian which broke the story that he wanted to go to a place where the government doesn’t spy on people. The last time I checked, Hong Kong has a complicated legal relationship to China. China is not exactly a country that eschews spying on citizens. In an article about extradition the Guardian says
Hong Kong has not accepted a political defence against extradition since the handover in 1997. In the 1930s it turned down a bid by French authorities for Ho Chi Minh’s return to what was then IndoChina, in a case that went all the way to the privy council. More recently, in 1994, its courts stayed the extradition of the politician Jeffrey Kitigan to Malaysia.
Guy Goodwin-Gill QC, a leading expert on extradition at Blackstone Chambers in London, noted that the international climate had changed, with offences that previously might have qualified – such as hijacking – no longer accepted as political.
“The times are very much one of co-operation across a broad range of activities. You hardly ever find a state refusing extradition for political offences any longer,” he said.
In the case of Snowden, “you certainly see political dimensions: you have members of the US senate or House of Representatives calling him a traitor – so they are building a very good case for another state to treat this as political,” added Goodwin-Gill.
Of course, there are avenues for appeal through the courts in Hong Kong which could drag out the process for years according to some British legal experts. It remains unclear why he went to part of China when he was professing a wish to be free of surveillance.
I have also heard that he may have misrepresented his salary to the Guardian – that it was much lower than he claimed. Snowden also claimed that as a contractor with the NSA he had broad authority to do a lot of things that some experts question. This is from NPR
Edward Snowden’s claim that as systems administrator for a defense contractor in Hawaii he had the authority “to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president,” just isn’t plausible, says a former national security lawyer at the Justice Department and Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Carrie Cordero, the former Justice and DNI lawyer, is now director of national securities studies at Georgetown University Law Center. She tells Steve that “the notion that this individual has the authority to go ahead and … ‘wiretap’ people is just ridiculous.”
Without discussing the details of how such surveillance programs work and the safeguards that are in place to protect privacy, Cordero says that Snowden’s claim “does not resemble anything close to what I observed within the intelligence community.”
Snowden may turn out to be a braggart who stretches the truth. And this may damage his credibility overall. But the bottom line for me is that he doesn’t seem to have told us anything that a lot of people didn’t know before. Capehart again
We absolutely should know what our government is up to. And, according to The Post’s Walter Pincus, we’ve known about this for quite some time.
The legendary national-security writer cites a May 2006 USA Today story that revealed “the NSA ‘has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth,’ attributing that information to ‘people with direct knowledge of the arrangement.’” Then there was the March 15, 2012, Wired magazine story on the new $2 billion NSA Data Center in Utah and “its ability to ‘intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks.’”
“Was there any follow-up in the mainstream media to [James] Bamford’s disclosure, or anything close to the concerns voiced on Capitol Hill this past week? No,” Pincus writes in Tuesday’s paper.
So where should we go from here? I agree with Capehart’s conclusions
Still, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a debate about what we now know and its appropriateness now that we know it. Eugene Robinson zeroes in on this in his Tuesday column.
The NSA, it now seems clear, is assembling an unimaginably vast trove of communications data, and the bigger it gets, the more useful it is in enabling analysts to make predictions. It’s one thing if the NSA looks for patterns in the data that suggest a nascent overseas terrorist group or an imminent attack. It’s another thing altogether if the agency observes, say, patterns that suggest the birth of the next tea party or Occupy Wall Street movement.
Is that paranoia? Then reassure me. Let’s talk about the big picture and decide, as citizens, whether we are comfortable with the direction our intelligence agencies are heading. And let’s remember that it was Snowden, not our elected officials, who opened this vital conversation.
Yes, Snowden opened this conversation. But that’s as much credit as I’m willing to give him.
That sounds about right. Let’s see if Congress talk about this without a lot of finger-pointing and hysteria. Should the result be changes to the Patriot Act, we can give Snowden a little piece of the credit.
I look forward to my weekly email from my Congressman, Mike Capuano. Of course, I once worked for him when he was mayor of the City of Somerville (a near Boston city) so I am used to Mike’s saying what he means and I almost always agree with him. I am copying the entire first part of his email into this post.
“U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Somerville), who voted against the Patriot Act, rallied protesters by calling the law the worst attack on freedom since the 1798 Alien and Sedition Acts.”
September 10, 2003
The Patriot Act and Verizon
I am sure you are aware that Verizon has reportedly been ordered by the top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA court) to turn over, “on an ongoing daily basis”, information about every customer telephone number, including landline, cell and business numbers. That information reportedly includes all numbers dialed and all calls received within the United States as well as between the United States and other countries.
As I write this newsletter, the news is filled with reports that a similar program called PRISM is in place for every major internet and email provider. The government claims they have not accessed the content of phone calls, but it seems they ARE accessing the content of emails such as videos, websites visited and more. According to reports, the PRISM program is not at this time being used on U.S. citizens.
Even if you can accept the government collecting the number and length of every call you make, are you really comfortable with them having the ability to catalogue all the YouTube videos you watch, the Netflix movies you download, or the web pages you visit? It seems that our own government has access to every phone call, email and internet search for all Americans at every minute of every day.
Like most Americans, I am absolutely outraged. But, if you’re a long time subscriber to these newsletters, you probably already knew that. You also probably know that I voted against passage of the so-called “Patriot Act” and every reauthorization since it first passed in 2001.
Before I go any further, I feel compelled to remind you that I was an early and strong supporter of President Obama. I am still amongst the strongest Obama supporters in the House of Representatives. Nonetheless, I cannot remain silent out of some sort of misplaced loyalty to President or party when I believe that basic American rights have been intentionally trampled.
I know we live in a dangerous world and there is work to do to prevent terrorists from harming us. But we must find a balance between giving law enforcement the tools they need to track and identify terrorists and protecting the very liberties upon which our great country was founded.
This data collection has reportedly been going on for 7 years. The length of time that this has been going on and the staggering amount of data collected on every Verizon customer amounts to an incredible overreach. Even if you’re not a Verizon customer, there is clearly reason for concern. Who really believes that Verizon is the only telecommunications company required to turn over this data?
I have always believed that we must give law enforcement the tools they need to pursue criminals. However, we can do that and still protect civil liberties.
It is time for those of us who support President Obama to speak up. I believe he is a good man and has been a good President. However, I think his Administration has allowed their concern for our safety to lead them down the wrong path. If we remain silent, those who have always wished him to fail on every point stand a better chance of winning the hearts and minds of America and we will all be worse off for it. It is possible to support President Obama and yet disagree with him on certain issues – this is one of those times.
The President has said he is glad this is out in the open and he welcomes discussion. Instead of reacting in horror – or wishing more information would be collected, we need to talk. I’m not sure I know where the balance is, but one thing that I learned at St. John’s College (Annapolis) is that dialog can lead to greater clarity and understanding. So let’s talk: To each other and to the President and your member of Congress.
Photograph from Capuano website.
Jason Collins spent time last season with the Boston Celtics (and he might be back next season) before he came out in a now famous Sports Illustrated story. Last night Collins helped the Red Sox celebrate Pride Night by throwing out the first pitch to Manager John Farrell. It should be noted that managers rarely do this.
The Boston Globe ran this story from the Associate Press
The 7-foot center was greeted with a nice applause when the PA announcer read the opening of the SI article: ‘‘I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.’’
Wearing a Red Sox jersey with the No. 98 on the back, Collins threw out the first pitch to Red Sox manager John Farrell.
Red Sox slugger David Ortiz feels everyone should support each other based on how they act.
‘‘Nobody knows what is perfect and what is not,’’ Ortiz said, sitting at his locker about three hours before the game. ‘‘If you are respectful and you do what you’re supposed to do, it doesn’t matter what you are and what you come from, people should respect you and love you the same way.’’
Collins wears 98 on his jerseys to honor Matthew Shepard who was killed in 1998, a decision welcomed by Shepard’s parents.
Hey Danny and Doc, bring him back to the Celtics!
By the way, the Sox won on a walk-off 3 run homer by – David Ortiz.
Photograph Jim Davis/Globe Staff
Having lived in Virginia for many years, I take more than a passing interest in the political scene there and this fall’s election will be a doozy! Not quite sure what Virginia Republicans think they are doing, but unless everyone in Virginia has totally lost it, Terry McAuliffe should be the next governor.
This morning, the Washington Post has a story with 3 earlier related ones. Here are the headlines with links:
E.W. Jackson a wild card in Va. GOP campaign This is the main profile and biography.
So what exactly is going on in Virginia? On May 18, the Post described the ticket this way
Thousands of Virginia Republicans on Saturday picked a slate of statewide candidates who vowed to stay true to conservative principles, resisting calls to remake the GOP message after losses in 2012.
At the top of the ticket is gubernatorial hopeful Ken Cuccinelli II, the attorney general. Known for high-profile battles against “Obamacare,” abortion and a university climate scientist, Cuccinelli stood by what detractors have called an out-of-the-mainstream agenda.
E.W. Jackson, a minister from Chesapeake, won the nomination for lieutenant governor with a full-throated appeal for limited government, traditional families and gun rights. “We will not only win an election in November, we will open the hearts and minds of our people and save this commonwealth and save this country,” said Jackson, the first African American nominated by the Virginia GOP for statewide office since 1988. [That was Doug Wilder, who won.]
For attorney general, the party nominated state Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg), who this year successfully pushed tougher voter ID rules. “Are you ready to stop Obamacare in its tracks?” he asked the crowd in his acceptance speech, eliciting cheers.
It is as if the election last year never happened. Mitt Romney didn’t lose. Barack Obama never won.
But the candidate in the spotlight is Jackson.
Jackson’s improbable rise, one that has astonished Republicans far and wide, is the latest of a number of incarnations, including foster child, Marine, Harvard law school graduate and even Democrat. But the minister who is now GOP gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli II’s running mate has long used his booming voice to endear himself to conservatives.
Still, Jackson’s words — sometimes eloquent, sometimes raw, often impassioned — are causing anxiety for many Republicans as the resurfacing of his past statements about homosexuality and abortion have threatened to disrupt the campaign.
Instead of promoting their new ticket, Republicans have answered for Jackson’s once calling gays “perverted” and “sick” and saying Planned Parenthood has been “far more lethal” to blacks “than the KKK.”
Jackson has ties to Massachusetts which I didn’t know.
After a tour with the Marines, Jackson graduated with honors in 1975 from the University of Massachusetts, where he majored in philosophy. Then he graduated from Harvard Law School in 1978. He spent more than 20 years in Boston, practicing law, pastoring at New Cornerstone Exodus Church, serving as a chaplain to the Boston Fire Department, and hosting radio shows, including one called “Earl Jackson Across America.”
At one point, he was a Democrat, and he was elected to the party’s Massachusetts State Committee, where he distinguished himself with his conservative views. “I thought, ‘Wow, here’s a great potential leader,’ ” said James Roosevelt, who is a grandson of Franklin D. Roosevelt and who was then and is now legal counsel to the state Democratic organization. “Then I learned of his views, and I thought: ‘What’s he doing? This is not a leader of the Democratic Party.’ ”
Jackson became a Republican in the early 1980s, explaining that Democrats’ embrace of the gay rights movement violated his religious beliefs. In 1989, he joined the opposition to a proposal to ban discrimination against gays and lesbians in Massachusetts. “We intend to blow this bill to smithereens,” he told reporters then. “We intend to defeat this legislation and bury it so deep no one will ever find it again.”
Sorry Rev. Jackson. We not only passed that bill, but we also have marriage equality. I have to admit I never listen much to talk radio or to Jackson’s program. He moved to Virginia in 1998, perhaps thinking the political climate there would be more in tuned to his views and clearly he was right about that: he is now the Republican nominee for Lt. Governor. Jackson has also been affiliated with the Christian Coalition and the Tea Party.
“The Republicans I’m talking to are saying, ‘What the hell are they doing in Virginia?’ ” said Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee. “Is this, ‘101 ways to lose an election’? You’re coming out of the gate with comments everyone has to explain. You’re wasting a lot of time and energy batting that back when you should be doing other things to get the guy known.”
Although unknown to many Republicans, Jackson in recent years has built a following among the most activist of Virginia’s conservatives, many of whom were delegates at the convention. But Republicans are now concerned, Steele said, that Jackson will turn off the party’s own voters. “You can’t have a situation where Republicans say, ‘You know what? I can’t have this’ and they stay home or vote for the other guy,” he said.
Added to the mix is the investigation of the current Republican governor, Bob McDonnell awkwardly headed by the current Republican Attorney General and nominee for Governor, Ken Cuccinelli who took money from the same supporter. The New York Times has that story.
Virginia’s attorney general has appointed an outside prosecutor to investigate Gov. Bob McDonnell’s financial disclosures, in a widening scandal over a political donor who wrote a $15,000 check for the wedding of the governor’s daughter, and who was also a benefactor of the attorney general.
Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the attorney general, who is also the Republican candidate for governor this year, said on Wednesday that he named the outside prosecutor last November to look into Mr. McDonnell’s disclosures.
Mr. Cuccinelli said “information came to my attention” triggering the appointment of the prosecutor. His referral of the case to the Richmond commonwealth’s attorney, Mike Herring, whose role is similar to that of a district attorney, “was not a conclusion that any violation occurred,’’ Mr. Cuccinelli said in a statement.
The investigation came to light through a Freedom of Information Act request by The Richmond Times-Dispatch, which first reported it.
Mr. McDonnell and Mr. Cuccinelli, who are yoked in an awkward political alliance – the former a popular governor of a purple state and his would-be successor, a Tea Party favorite — have been swept up in controversy over their friendship with a Virginia businessman, Jonnie R. Williams Sr., who gave generously to both officials.
What a tangle! Can Terry McAuliffe pull out a win for the Democrats?
“We’re in a deep [expletive],” said one Virginia Republican strategist. “The only good news is that the Democrats have Terry McAuliffe. It’s the only thing keeping us glued to a chance of victory.”
All I can say is “stay ‘tooned”.
Photograph: Steve Helber/AP
Every administration on every level of government worries about leaks. Mayors worry about information on a big new construction project or policy initiative getting out too soon. Presidents worry about national security. Members of legislatures worry about a stand on an issue leaking before it can be “properly framed.” Actually all politicians worry about that. Look at VP Biden “leaking” his position on gay marriage. I’ve been suspected of being a leaker because I knew reporters – and I’ve helped look for leaks. I also believe in a free press, but as with any freedom, limits are needed. The question is where that line should be.
Do you understand what the AP scandal is all about? I have to admit that until I read this piece by Jack Shafer of Reuters, I really didn’t. I don’t think the press did a good job of trying to explain their own story. Did you know that the leak had to do with the underwear bomber? I didn’t. Never heard or saw that and I follow the news pretty closely.
Journalists gasp and growl whenever prosecutors issue lawful subpoenas ordering them to divulge their confidential sources or to turn over potential evidence, such as notes, video outtakes or other records. It’s an attack on the First Amendment, It’s an attack on the First Amendment, It’s an attack on the First Amendment, journalists and their lawyers chant. Those chants were heard this week, as it was revealed that Department of Justice prosecutors had seized two months’ worth of records from 20 office, home and cell phone lines used by Associated Press journalists in their investigation into the Yemen underwear-bomber leaks.
First Amendment radicals — I count myself among them — resist any and all such intrusions: You can’t very well have a free press if every unpublished act of journalism can be co-opted by cops, prosecutors and defense attorneys. First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams speaks for most journalists when he denounces the “breathtaking scope” of the AP subpoenas. But the press’s reflexive protests can prevent it from seeing the story in full, which I think is the case in the current leaks investigation.
The Obama administration has already used the Espionage Act to prosecute more government officials for leaking than all of his predecessors put together, but we shouldn’t automatically lump its pursuit of the underwear-bomb leaker in with those cases. Perhaps this investigation is chasing an extra-extraordinary leak, and the underwear-bomber leak is but one of the drops.
I have to point out here that the Republicans in Congress have pushed the administration to find leakers and, I fear, have caused the Democrats and President Obama to catch their paranoia.
The AP story that has so infuriated the government described the breakup of an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula plot to place an underwear bomber on board a U.S.-bound airliner. Published on the afternoon of May 7, 2012, the story patted itself on the back for having heeded the White House and CIA requests to not publish the previous week, when the AP first learned of the operation. The AP states in the article that it published only after being told by “officials” that the original “concerns were allayed.” In a chronology published in today’s Washington Post, we’re told that the CIA was no longer resisting publication of the AP story on the day it hit the wire (Monday) and that the White House was planning to “announce the successful counterterrorism operation that Tuesday.”
That may be the case, but the government was still incensed by the leak. In fact, it appears that officials were livid. As my Reuters colleagues Mark Hosenball and Tabassum Zakaria reported last night, the government found the leak so threatening that it opened a leak investigation before the AP ran its story.
Now, what would make the Obama administration so furious? My guess is it wasn’t the substance of the AP story that has exasperated the government but that the AP found a source or sources that spilled information about an ongoing intelligence operation and that even grander leaks might surge into the press corps’ rain barrels.
At the risk of making the Department of Justice’s argument for it, a leak once sprung can turn into a gusher as the original leakers keep talking and new ones join them, or as the government attempts to explain itself, or as others in the government begin to speak out of turn. From what I can tell, all of the above happened after the AP story appeared.
So there you have it. It was not the particular leak, but the fact that there was a leaker that could potentially leak again. As Shafer points out when there is a leak there is also the problem of government officials saying too much and, in effect becoming leakers. What happened here was the existence of a double agent got out, mostly because of what government officials said in trying to explain the original AP story. Shafer summarizes the trail and concludes
To begin with, the perpetrators of a successful double-agent operation against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula would not want to brag about their coup for years. Presumably, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula will now use the press reports to walk the dog back to determine whose misplaced trust allowed the agent to penetrate it. That will make the next operation more difficult. Other intelligence operations — and we can assume they are up and running — may also become compromised as the press reports give al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula new clues.
Likewise, the next time the CIA or foreign intelligence agency tries to recruit a double agent, the candidate will judge his handlers wretched secret keepers, regard the assignment a death mission and seek employment elsewhere.
Last, the leaks of information — including those from the lips of Brennan, Clarke and King — signal to potential allies that America can’t be trusted with secrets. “Leaks related to national security can put people at risk,” as Obama put it today in a news conference.
The ultimate audience for the leaks investigation may not be domestic but foreign. Obviously, the government wants to root out the secretspillers. But a country can’t expect foreign intelligence agencies to cooperate if it blows cover of such an operation. I’d wager that the investigations have only begun.
None of this means we should go rooting around people’s cell phone and email records without some protection. In his reaction to the scandal, President Obama called for Congress to enact an updated media shield law which would replace the Justice Department’s internal regulations (which I think they actually didn’t follow). Wouldn’t it be interesting for Congress to take some proactive steps instead of just investigating?
Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images
I read a lot of letters this week, but don't worry--I also found time to write one. This one inspired by an especially awkward lecture at Howard University. And since my dad and two of my sisters attended Howard, I feel a little possessive of it and paid careful attention to Republican Sen. Rand Paul's address.
Dear Sen. Paul,
Jonathan Capehart wrote this about it in the Washington Post.
I’ve grown accustomed to the lunacy that emanates from the far right on Capitol Hill. But a tweet last night from Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Tex.) promoting his new bumper sticker was a jaw-dropper.
Just when you think things can’t get sicker something new comes along.