Tears of the Times

I was deeply touched by the concern implicit in the Julian Barnes and David Sanger New York Times story reporting President Trump’s authorization of Attorney General Barr to declassify the documents underlying the greatest political scandal in American political history — i.e., the Russian collusion hoax. Their concern for national security permeates the story. There it is right at the top, for example, in the lead paragraph:

President Trump’s order allowing Attorney General William P. Barr to declassify any intelligence that led to the Russia investigation sets up a potential confrontation with the C.I.A. It effectively strips the agency of its most critical power: choosing which secrets it shares and which ones remain hidden.

Considering that the power of declassification resides preeminently in the president as head of the executive branch, one might think that the Times’s concern is excessive. Declassification will proceed lawfully and Attorney General Barr is in a good position to assure that no damage is done to national security. As I say, however, one can’t help but be touched by the Times’s concern.

Yet Barnes and Sanger somehow overlooked the many cases in which the Times itself stripped the CIA of “its most critical power,” and did so without the color of law. To say the least, previous cases reflect the Times’s casual malice toward national security. Perhaps we should pause over one or two such cases in the hope that we might catch the Times in an introspective mood.

One doesn’t have to call up the ancient history of the Times’s unauthorized disclosure of the highly classified anti-terror programs I discussed in the 2006 Weekly Standard column “Exposure” or in related Power Line posts such as “When Bush begged the Times.” More recently, with a little help from “current and former intelligence officials,” the Times’s Matthew Rosenberg and Adam Goldman called out Michael D’Andrea, the CIA officer newly appointed to run the agency’s Iran operations. The Times 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, the Times linked to its own 2015 story by Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo, as I have it above.

A few days later the Times ran the story “Aid coordinator in Yemen had secret job overseeing U.S. commando shipments” by Adam Goldman and Eric Schmitt. With a little help from “six former and current United States officials,” Goldman and Schmitt exposed the covert identities of NGOs and Special Operators as well as another named individual assisting our armed forces. Goldman and Schmitt seemed intent on damaging directly the very difficult and dangerous means and methods employed against the worst of the worst in the war against terrorism.

Who were the “former and current government officials” serving as the sources for this story? Goldman and Schmitt helpfully added, as usual, that they spoke to the Times “only on the condition of anonymity because the details are highly classified.”

One begins to suspect that the tears of Barnes and Sanger over the stripping of the CIA’s “most critical power” by the president are of the variety known as crocodile. For a definitive takedown of the Times on this score, see Eric Felten’s Weekly Standard column “Why Is the NYT Suddenly Opposed to Declassifying the FISA Docs?” Barnes and Sanger’s current story gives us another example of history repeating itself.

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