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Pat Roberts, (Double) Standard Bearer?

Murray Waas has a nice piece in the National Journal on what he suggest is a "double standard" when it comes to leak probes. He points out that Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, who praised the CIA for firing Mary McCarthy for allegedly sharing classified intelligence with reporters, himself disclosed intel that four former senior intelligence officers say "impaired efforts to capture Saddam Hussein and potentially threatened the lives of Iraqis who were spying for the United States." (McCarthy, its worth noting, alleges that she didn't leak any classified information.)

Writes Waas:

The former intelligence officials said in interviews that Roberts was never held accountable for his comments, which bore directly on the issue of intelligence-gathering sources and methods, and revealed that Iraqis close to Hussein were probably talking to the United States. These former officials contrasted the Roberts case with last week's firing of CIA officer Mary O. McCarthy, as examples of how rank and file intelligence professionals now have much to fear from legitimate and even inadvertent contacts with journalists, while senior executive branch officials and members of Congress are almost never held accountable when they seriously breach national security through leaks of information.
Keep in mind that Waas is citing anonymous sources, and as we've often pointed out, anonymous sources almost always have agendas. But Roberts is on the record here, having publicly disclosed in a 2003 speech what the CIA believed to be the then-location of Saddam Hussein, in addition to other sensitive secrets.

Democrats and some in the intelligence community argue that the White House, which is so critical of leaks, regularly engages in leaks worse than those it criticizes, such as the leak that led to the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame. It's an issue that also has some journalists up in arms, although, according to the New York Times' Bill Keller, perhaps not enough of them. He wrote in an email to Waas that the White House is out to intimidate the press:

"I'm not sure journalists fully appreciate the threat confronting us," wrote Keller. "The Times in the eavesdropping case, the Post for its CIA prison stories, and everyone else who has tried to look behind the war on terror."

He added that "there's sometimes a vindictive tone in the way [administration officials] talk about dragging reporters before grand juries and in the hints that reporters who look too hard into the public's business risk being branded traitors." And he said journalists may be "suffering a bit of subpoena fatigue. Maybe some people are a little intimidated by the way the White House plays the soft-on-terror card. Whatever the reason, I worry that we're not as worried as we should be."

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