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Hullabaloo


Thursday, June 27, 2013

 
Treating all leaks equally is kind of important to the whole "rule of law" thing

by David Atkins

In all the manufactured outrage against Snowden for leaking and Greenwald for doing his job as a journalist, there have been two main strains of thought. The first is that whatever the government does in the name of "national security" should be accepted without question, that if one is sworn to secrecy one should never reveal secrets under any circumstance, and that journalistic freedom of speech itself should be called into question if it interferes in any way with whatever government officials say they're doing in the name of "national security."

That is a fascist argument that has no place in civil American society, and that should embarrass anyone who uses it.

The second argument is about equal application of rule of law, and it carries a little more moral weight. That argument centers around balance of powers and the notion that it should not be up to random individuals to determine what secrets should remain secrets based on their own moral compass. It's based around notions of universal rule of law, and is not a fascist one but an institutionalist one. It's the argument that animates much of the anti-Snowden left.

But for anyone to argue that point with credibility, one must also oppose the rampant leaks coming from inside the government apparatus as well. Senator Mark Udall's quote bears repeating here:

As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I am concerned to see news reports about the CIA’s response to the Committee’s Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program before the information was provided to the committee. Committee members have not yet seen this response, which we have been expecting for nearly six months.

The American people’s trust in intelligence agencies requires transparency and strong congressional oversight. This latest leak–the latest incident in a long string of leaks from unnamed intelligence officials who purport to be familiar with the Committee’s Study and the CIA’s official response to it–is wholly unacceptable. Even as these reports emerged today and over the past several months, the CIA and the White House have repeatedly rejected requests to discuss the Committee’s report with Members or Committee staff.

The continual leaks of inaccurate information from unnamed intelligence officials are embarrassing to the agency and have only hardened my resolve to declassify the full Committee Study, which is based on a review of more than six million pages of CIA records, comprises more than 6,000 pages in length and includes more than 35,000 footnotes. The report is based on CIA records including internal memoranda, cables, emails, as well as transcripts of interviews and Intelligence Committee hearings. The Study is fact-based, and I believe, indisputable.
The U.S. intelligence apparatus is selectively leaking material that it finds "appropriate," using secret judgments none of the rest of us are privy to, while condemning leaks from outside the system. That makes a mockery of the universal rule of the law. Either all leaks are OK, or none are. There's a debate to be had about that question, but intellectual consistency demands taking one side or the other. One simply cannot support these government-sanctioned leaks while opposing Snowden's without falling back on plainly totalitarian logic that justifies whatever the government does in the name of national security. There's no space here between the Peter King right and the pro-Administration pseudo-left if one does not roundly denounce the government's selective leaks.

If someone denounces Snowden and Greenwald but claims to be to the left of Peter King, they must also denounce the government's selective leaks and demand prosecution of those involved, or lose all credibility and claims to intellectual consistency. To selectively defend or extol lawbreaking behavior depending on who is in office and what issue is being defended, is the worst sort of political hackery and hypocrisy.


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