One of the Democrats’ several September Surprises was the highly selective, and highly misleading, leak of a small portion of the recently-completed National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. The Associated Press reported today that House Intelligence Committee chairman Peter Hoekstra has suspended a Democratic committee staffer and denied him or her access to classified information, pending an investigation into whether that staffer was the source of the NIE leak.
As far as the AP’s report indicates, the only evidence against the staffer is the fact that he or she “requested the document from National Intelligence Director John Negroponte three days before a Sept. 23 story by the Times on its conclusions.” That could be a coincidence, of course; on the other hand, there may be more evidence of which we are unaware.
If a Democratic committee staffer was responsible for the misleading and presumaably illegal leak, there could be political consequences. In a broader sense, though, I don’t think it makes much difference. Historically, the Democrats haven’t had to rely on committee staffers for leaks, because there are plenty of loyal, committed Democrats embedded in the intelligence agencies who willingly leak to loyal, committed Democrats who work for the New York Times, Washington Post and other media outlets. Until this point, at least, there has been no need to involve Democratic staffers in the process. Whether this particular leak came from from a Democrat in an intelligence agency or a Democrat on the Hill is, in my view, of little importance.
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