Pompeo on the leaks

Since the inauguration of President Trump we have been inundated by leaks of classified information attributed to current and former government officials. These current and former government officials have leaked classified information to their friends at the New York Times, the Washington Post and other mainstream media organs. The leaks have become a flood of crisis proportions.

Two months ago, for example, New York Times reporters Matthew Rosenberg and Adam Goldman relied on their friends among “current and former intelligence officials” to perform a profoundly malicious act. In their June 2 story Rosenberg and Goldman exposed the identity of Michael D’Andrea as the CIA officer newly appointed to run the agency’s Iran operations. They explained:

The C.I.A. declined to comment on Mr. D’Andrea’s role, saying it does not discuss the identities or work of clandestine officials. The [current and former intelligence] officials spoke only on the condition of anonymity because Mr. D’Andrea remains undercover, as do many senior officials based at the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Va….The New York Times is naming Mr. D’Andrea because his identity was previously published in news reports, and he is leading an important new administration initiative against Iran.

A footnote about those “previously published” news reports. In the version of the story posted online, Rosenberg and Goldman linked to the Times’s own 2015 story by Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo as I have above.

The Times and its gaggle of “current and former officials” are guilty of mind-boggling irresponsibility. They put a target on D’Andrea’s back. They omitted only D’Andrea’s home address.

They also damaged the national security of the United States to no public purpose. Their action was nasty, gratuitous and, given the Times’s role in hyping the alleged “outing” of Valerie Plame into a crisis of the first order, unbelievably hypocritical. Yet so far as I am aware Marc Thiessen stands alone among mainstream media columnists in calling out the Times for what it did.

Last week at the Aspen National Security Forum New York Times columnist Bret Stephens interviewed CIA Director Mike Pompeo. The interview reflected Stephens knowledge of foreign affairs. It is worth listening to in its entirety (video below). Stephens nevertheless had absolutely no idea what Pompeo was referring to when he alluded to the Times’s June 2 story.

At about 27:00 of the video, Stephens asked Pompeo about the use of Wikileaks material by the media or by politicians. After some throat clearing about the First Amendment Pompeo responded:

I’ll tell you what your question brings to mind for me. We have an awful lot of folks who have decided that their constitutional duty includes releasing information that they promised they wouldn’t put anyplace else….I hope others will figure out what their responsibility to America is. I hope they get it right.

Then Pompeo addressed the Times’s June 2 story:

We had a publication — you work for it, Bret — that published the name of an undercover officer at the Central Intelligence Agency. I find that unconscionable.

Pompeo looked Stephens in the eye. Stephens shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “You’re talking about Phil Agee,” Stephens inquired.

Pompeo wasn’t talking about Agee; Agee is ancient history. Agee was of course the rogue CIA agent who outed CIA officers en masse in the 1970’s. A traitor and Communist collaborator, he died in Havana. Pompeo was addressing a slightly more pressing matter, a matter closer to home.

“Fair enough on the unconscionable score,” Stephens conceded, and then returned to the subject of Wikileaks (i.e., President Trump’s expressed enthusiasm for Wikileaks during the campaign). Stephens dropped Pompeo’s challenge to the Times like a hot potato.

Circling around the subject of intelligence leaks, Stephens asked: “Should we be enforcing the Espionage Act much more…?”

“Yes,” Pompeo responded.

“Should we be prosecuting journalists who use this information?” Stephens asked.

Pompeo responded: “No. There’s an old aphorism that says the law is entitled to every man’s evidence. And I’ll leave it at that.”

I believe that is a newsworthy response. I take it as a preview of coming attractions and I hope I’m right about that.