Hillary Clinton is right. She has seen the same intelligence as President Obama. But this administration leaves out a large piece of this very ugly pie: The Pakistani intelligence service – the ISI – takes its cues not from the United States or its own government but from the most extreme elements in the Saudi Royal family. That connection has brought Pakistan money to build nuclear weapons and helped create and now protects the Taliban and Al Qaeda leadership. Saudi money continues to flow into places like Yemen and Somalia. So while Hillary Clinton takes on the Pakistani regime in public, their real puppet masters go about their deadly business through the Saudi intelligence service, unchallenged by U.S. policymakers. They are paying to kill our kids. George Bush let it happen and now Barack Obama follows the same policies. Saudi Arabia in intelligence parlance is the frienemy of our “frienemies.”
The Obama administration fears bringing the troops home will paint it as weak. If there is another terrorist attack, keeping the same Bush policies and organizations will cushion the criticism. The Congress votes another $60 billion for Obama’s war only with Republican support.
The reason Mrs. Clinton made a trip to Pakistan days before her daughter’s wedding was to mitigate the release of thousands of documents by WikiLeaks.org exposing in great detail what most of us already know about the Afghan war and Pakistan, and, by extension, Saudi Arabia.
At the end of the movie, Three Days of the Condor, Robert Redford sends an envelope of classified information to The New York Times. Back then, in 1975, journalists were heroes. (Redford contributed to this image when he played the role of Bob Woodward in All the President’s Men.) But the question that haunted the end of Three Days of the Condor was: What if The New York Times does not print it?
That question is more relevant today. If the leaker had sent the documents to The New York Times and not to WikiLeaks.org, would they have run them? Clearly, the answer is no. The Times evaluated the material and published what they felt was important and would not, in their opinion, hurt national security. They did it in competition with two other news organizations.
The scale of the WikiLeaks document dump is enormous. The Times says it treated WikiLeaks like a source. Clearly, WikiLeaks, like former Vice President Dick Cheney, treated The Times like a public relations outlet. The media establishment once again seems to be doddering and drooling when they need to be razor sharp and digging.
The near extinct media believes that WikiLeaks.org is a source because they are not the arbiters of the material. Ask yourself: If you were a young, disillusioned analyst with sensitive information that you believed the American public should know, who would you send it to? The New York Times or WikiLeaks?
The old media dinosaurs complain about one of the most important scoops since the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Columnists like Richard Cohen (who, well, writes only like Richard Cohen can) create the air of an elitism that has made the bile in most Americans rise over the years to the level that some celebrate the decline of newspapers. Fewer journalists to them are the same as fewer lawyers. It makes the world a better place. No more gatekeepers of information.
Some editors want to get politicians’ approval before they print a story even from an administration that is going after its reporters like Jim Risen for telling the truth. The Obama administration has political hacks in government agencies reviewing documents, putting the lie to his public Freedom of Information Act policies. (The New York Times could have reported on the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 before it unfolded. They held back the story.)
It does not matter who comes up with information. A journalist’s job is to vet it and report it and let the truth speak for itself.
Sy Hersh once told me many years ago I should turn a great story I had over to him because as a reporter not from The New York Times, I had “no right to do such a story.” I did my story anyway. That experience made me realize that it is the information that matters not the messenger. In the digital age, people seek information, not outlets. The lack of comfort old line journalists are taking in getting scooped by what they deem the unconventional and unacceptable brings a smile to my old face.
I am a huge Dana Priest fan. But the three-part series she and a colleague did in The Washington Post last week on our post 9.11 national security establishment was a tribute to what can go wrong with great reporting when editors and the government get involved. The Post deleted or diluted the names and locations of contractors and installations. Even then they were criticized for harming national security.
In this world, we are all targets. Why not delete all of our names from telephone directories like they did in the old Soviet Union. Why don’t we take our cities off Google Maps? Our cold war enemies had secret cities. Like pixelating Dick Cheney’s residence, it all seems ridiculous.
Turn the argument for censorship on its head. Shouldn’t we focus our enemy’s attention on the people and installations empowered to protect us? Wouldn’t it be more honorable for an enemy to attack a military base or government contractor rather than a daycare center or, perhaps, Times Square? Would you rather a terrorist attack a civilian airliner or TSA? If the people paid to protect us cannot stop a terrorist attack on themselves, how can they stop them at all? Whatever happened to the captain going down with his ship?
In the interest of full disclosure, I first met the legendary head of CIA counterintelligence, James Jesus Angleton, because he wanted to thank me for not naming the names of CIA clandestine officers in an article I wrote with Dave Roman about CIA officers posing as journalists. But I am amazed today to hear old spooks say that the WikiLeaks posting is a threat to national security. Our enemies in Pakistan, the Taliban and Al Qaeda know everything about the attacks captured in these thousands of pages. The only people who were not privy to this information were the American taxpayers footing the bill.