The leak wars continue. The Obama administration is prosecuting more leakers of classified information than all previous presidents combined. NBC investigative reporter Michael Isikoff asks a key question occasioned by the publication of Obama’s Wars, Bob Woodward’s latest book:
How can they credibly prosecute mid-level bureaucrats and junior military officers for leaking classified information to the press when so many high-level officials have dished far more sensitive secrets to Woodward?
This is indeed a thorny issue, and a problem that calls into question the integrity of the secrecy system itself. It is also a reprise of what transpired during the Bush administration. Some of the most serious leaks of that era—the NSA’s Terrorist Surveillance Program and the joint CIA-Treasury terrorist financial tracking program—went unpunished while the Justice Department pursued an absurdly weak leak case against two employees of AIPAC.
What is to be done about the ongoing hypocrisy? If secrecy matters to our national security—and it does matter—two seemingly contradictory things should happen: a relaxation and a tightening. We need more and more timely declassification of those secrets the disclosure of which contains only evanescent harm. We also need administrative sanctions, dismissals, and/or prosecutions, of leakers, at all levels, who brazenly violate their oaths.
Will either course happen? Not rapidly, if at all. There is not exactly a constituency for reform. We are doomed to muddle through, or muddle down.