Schumer (D-N.Y.), regarding an intelligence leak that has endangered
Schumer said, has "undermined our national security,"
and if the facts are true, "it is clear that a crime has
not alone. Other senators, including Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jay
Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.),
lined up to demand that the Bush administration, Congress and
Dick Tracy's crime stoppers ferret out the traitor and hand him
over for caning. Because of this kind of leak, they warned, someone
But the leak
that drew their foregoing ire wasn't the one about the warrantless
wiretapping of people in America who chat with Al Qaeda. It was
directed at whoever disclosed the identity of CIA officer Valerie
Plame, in an alleged White House conspiracy to damage the reputations
of the opponents of the Iraq war. Among the many things this might
tell us is that Schumer doesn't regard preventing another terrorist
attack to be as important as a Plame outing.
of hypocrisy and selective outrage isn't new to either party:
Republicans didn't like special prosecutors, independent counsels
and the like when they were probing Republican scandals, such
as Watergate and Iran-contra. Some decided they liked them after
all when they went after President Bill Clinton. Now they don't
like them again. And vice versa for Democrats.
But one party's
hypocrisy doesn't cancel another's. Any leak that breaks the law
and endangers national security is grievously wrong. I said so
in an October 2003 column criticizing the Bush administration
for stalling an investigation of the Plame leak. But now a strange
silence has overcome Democrats and much of the media. From them
there are no more, as far as I can tell, passionate denunciations
of this leak. No more letters to the U.S. attorney general urging
an investigation; no more calls for congressional hearings; no
more berating journalists for being stooges of leakers; no more
allegations of criminality. The only calls to be heard from Democrats
are for congressional hearings on the surveillance program, hearings
that our enemies will find useful.
we must assume that they are more worried about risking the life
of one CIA agent than of a couple of hundred million Americans.
is Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), who put on one whale of an arm-waving
portrayal of Foghorn Leghorn on the Senate floor. In a statement
later, Byrd slipped out of his comic role by irresponsibly accusing
President Bush of assuming "unchecked power" that is
"reserved only for kings and potentates."
routinely refer to the surveillance as if it were randomly directed
at "Americans," without mentioning that the surveillance,
as far as we know, is of people who are confabbing with Al Qaeda.
This crucial omission is the result of either ignorance or demagoguery.
Some in the
media, in turn, routinely allow Democrats to get away with this.
Or grotesquely compare wiretapping with the internment of Japanese-Americans
during World War II. Or praise the New York Times for
its wonderful "scoop," forgetting all about the thousands
of stories they did casting a dark shadow on Bush for the Plame
generated by partisans and media has overcome reason, facts and
the law. Never mind that John Schmidt, associate attorney general
under Clinton, explained in an informative Chicago Tribune
op-ed piece why Bush has the legal and constitutional authority
to approve the taps. That "every president since FISA's [Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978] passage has asserted that
he retained the power to go beyond the act's terms." Never
mind that other legal scholars, on a non-partisan basis, have
said that whatever FISA says, the president retains that power
under the Constitution. That four federal appeals courts have
upheld the president's power to wiretap to gain foreign intelligence--which
the present case is about--without warrant.
scholars, lawyers and judges all agree that this issue is complex,
with finely tuned arguments and complicated precedents on both
sides. None of them is so reckless as the Byrds and media commentators
who state, without reflection and with partisan purpose, that
such wiretaps are illegal and unconstitutional.