The New York Times’ disclosure that the brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai allegedly is a CIA asset pinpoints the need for new legislation to make it easier to prosecute government employees who leak classified information, Sen. Kit Bond tells Newsmax.
Without confirming the Times’ story, the Missouri Republican and vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said he has discussed the possible need for new legislation with congressional leaders during the past week. Bond said he also has raised the issue previously: with Eric Holder when he was nominated as attorney general, with CIA Director Leon Panetta, and with their predecessors.
“Everybody said yeah, we’re going to prosecute somebody,” Bond told Newsmax. “Until you see somebody in an orange jumpsuit, people are going to regard it as a great sport for which there’s no penalty.”
In years past, newspapers would reveal such secrets only if an abuse were involved and would not jeopardize an ongoing legitimate intelligence operation. Developing assets within the inner circle of heads of state is part of the CIA’s job, helping the president to make decisions and obtaining intelligence about possible attacks.
Now newspapers such as The New York Times reveal secrets for the sake of revealing them, even if no abuse is involved. However, even though the Times played its story about Ahmed Wali Karzai as the lead of its Oct. 28 editions, few papers picked it up. The Washington Post, which has become a fair and responsible paper under its new publisher and executive editor, referred to the disclosure in a single sentence in the 19th paragraph of a story on President Obama’s request for more information about Afghanistan.
“We’ve got to find some way to prosecute those leakers,” Bond said. “We need to tighten up the laws. The laws are clearly being violated, and nobody’s being punished.”
Last week, “I had a phone conversation with several of the [congressional] leaders and told them that [new legislation] has to be done, and I know that Chairman [Dianne] Feinstein is carrying the same message, and we’re going to try to take some steps to find out why it [prosecutions] haven’t been done.
“Everybody says, oh yeah, we’ve presented them [the Justice Department] a case. We hear that time and time again. But nobody gets indicted.”
After The New York Times’ disclosure of President Bush’s National Security Agency program for intercepting terrorists’ calls and e-mails, “I was in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and our operators out there were saying their intercepts just fell off significantly,” Bond said. “Later, in the spring of 2006 when I was back interviewing Mike Hayden at his CIA confirmation hearing, I asked what the impact was of this on the intel community, and he said ruefully, 'We are now applying the Darwinian theory to terrorists. We’re only capturing the dumb ones.' ”
No abuse was involved in the NSA program. At its inception, Bush disclosed it to the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act Court, to congressional leaders, and to NSA’s inspector general. Congress has since passed legislation that continues the program.
In another example, as revealed in my book “The Terrorist Watch: Inside the Desperate Race to Stop the Next Attack,” after the Washington Post ran a story on Aug. 17, 1998, quoting a former CIA official as saying he was “aware of intercepted electronic communications among [Osama] bin Laden associates in the aftermath of the embassy bombings in which they take credit for the attacks and exchange warm congratulations,” bin Laden stopped using a satellite phone NSA was monitoring.
Without naming the source of the report, then-NSA Director Hayden described that compromise in 2002 congressional testimony as a “setback of inestimable consequences.”
In alleging that Karzai’s brother is a CIA asset, Bond said, The New York Times put him at risk and discouraged others from helping the agency.
“There are some disclosures where people or businesses are working with us, and when those things get disclosed, they’re likely to get somebody killed,” Bond says. “Whether the allegation about the Karzai brother is true or not, you can be sure that somebody’s probably going to try and assassinate him on the basis of that allegation. You begin to think, why would you bother cooperating?”
In years past, Bond said, “The news media was on our side.” Now, “They are trying to disclose all the secrets that keep us safe.”
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via
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