Howard Kurtz reviews the controversy over Dana Priest’s November 2 Washington Post article disclosing the existence of secret CIA prisons for the interrogation of foreign terrorists: “CIA article sidebar: A story of deja vu.” Here is how Kurtz frames the issue raised by the Joe Wilson affair and by Priest’s story:
Both the Nov. 2 prison story and the 2003 outing of Plame as a CIA operative relied on unnamed sources giving reporters secret information. In the Plame case, however, senior officials were trying to discredit White House critic Joe Wilson by focusing on the role of his wife in his inquiry into whether Iraq was trying to acquire nuclear material. Many on the left have cheered the resulting perjury and obstruction-of-justice charges against former vice-presidential aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, and Democrats want a stepped-up congressional probe of the administration’s prewar intelligence.
On the prison story, the unnamed officials — U.S. and foreign — were exposing an interrogation program that raises civil liberties concerns on the left. Many on the right are denouncing what they see as the damage to national security, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) — who joined House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) in demanding an investigation — says he is more concerned about the leak than the secret prisons. Downie and Priest declined to comment on any leak investigation.
It is deeply disappointing to find Kurtz repeating the liberal line that “senior officials were trying to discredit White House critic Joe Wilson by focusing on the role of his wife in his inquiry into whether Iraq was trying to acquire nuclear material.” Mr. Kurtz, please try this on for size: “Senior officials were trying to explain how an unqualified, recently dismissed Foreign Service officer was sent on a sensitive intelligence mission and left free to publicize and misrepresent it in the New York Times.”
On the plus side, Kurtz quotes John’s comment supporting an investigation of Priest’s anonymous sources for the article: “It would be a great thing if the steady stream of illegal anti-administration leaks out of the CIA and the State Department could be shut down, and some of the Democrat leakers imprisoned. It’s time to put the Plame farce to a good use.”