That was quite a scoop yesterday by our Josh Gerstein in respect of how the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in its investigations of leaks of our national secrets, has been stonewalled by none other than agencies of America's own government. The disclosures on which Mr. Gerstein reports came in response to litigation Mr. Gerstein filed under the Freedom of Information Act. He obtained FBI documents indicating that our intelligence agencies have been "uncooperative" in investigating leaks. The FBI documents refer to unreturned phone calls, cancelled meetings that weren't rescheduled, and the concern that lawyers from the agency whose information was leaked would "stonewall." And it looks like cases were dropped rather than force government officials and agencies to cooperate with the investigation and produce evidence. So much for vows by President Bush that he would get to the bottom of the leaks.
This newspaper hews to the view that once information on what our government is doing gets into the hands of newspapers, it is proper for the newspapers to use their judgment in whether to publish it. But we have been all for the government enforcing the laws in respect of those government officials who have a legal obligation to keep the government's secrets. This is particularly true in the context of the battle that has been going on within the government in the past several years in respect of the war. It has become clear that one of the problems America is facing as it seeks to win this war is that members of our own intelligence agencies — particularly the CIA — have been conniving against the administration. It is an enormous scandal.
It is particularly bizarre coming into focus on the eve of the trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, set to begin in Washington on Tuesday. President Bush has just chosen General David Petraeus as the top American military commander in Iraq, the man who will implement on the ground the surge that Mr. Bush spoke about on television last night. The White House is touting General Petraeus's experience in overseeing the drafting of the American military's most recent counterinsurgency manual. It turns out that while Judith Miller of the New York Times was being threatened with jail for honoring her commitments to sources, while prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald attempted to pry from her Mr. Libby's name, General Petraeus wrote a letter to the judge in charge of her case.
The general, writing from Baghdad, described Ms. Miller as "forthright, honest, and cooperative." He wrote that Ms. Miller "demonstrated a deep commitment to her work and values as an American citizen." And he wrote that he sensed she is "incapable of consciously reporting information that would threaten American national security." One would think that if anyone understands the importance of national security and of keeping America strong in wartime, it would be the top American general in Iraq. Yet, somehow the prosecutors were prepared to put Ms. Miller in jail for months to get her to disgorge Mr. Libby's name while the intelligence agencies themselves were stonewalling leak investigations.
All this underscores the likelihood that we have had agencies of the American government breaking the law to defeat a military campaign into which the American Congress, by an overwhelming vote, sent our GIs. These implications were sensed immediately by the blogosphere, where Powerlineblog.com lit up on Mr. Gerstein's story at the crack of dawn, and on the airwaves, where Rush Limbaugh devoted part of his broadcast to Mr. Gerstein's story. Said Mr. Limbaugh, "It's become more and more obvious that there is a symbiotic relationship between these agencies — we're talking about State, we're talking about the Pentagon, CIA — there's a symbiotic relationship between these agencies and the drive-by media now, and they're not going to let an election get in their way … They've got their own agendas. … If they have to destroy the policies of a particular administration, they'll do it via leaks, and then when these criminal leaks are investigated, they don't participate."
The Democrats in Congress pressed Mr. Bush to name a special prosecutor in the Valerie Plame leak case that has ensnared Mr. Libby, but they seem uninterested — or even opposed — to investigating other leaks that have been decried as harmful, such as those of NSA wiretapping programs or eyes into international banking networks. Not even the public editor of the newspaper that originally published the banking network story, the New York Times, will defend the disclosure by the newspaper of that story. When the Democrats next control the White House and it is against one of their policies that Congress and the agencies are leaking secrets to the press in wartime, perhaps they will be the ones to make the point that the executive branch is controlled by elected leaders.