Have neocons had a change of heart about leaks of classified information?
First, they downplayed the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame’s name and/or contested her covert status.
This week, they’re hosting Ahmed Chalabi, the likely source of misinformation the US used to justify the invasion of Iraq, and also purported leaker of US secrets to Iran.
Suddenly, though, they’re concerned that leaking classified information could endanger American lives and policies both at home and abroad.
But it wasn’t the Plame or Chalabi cases that raised their concern.
On November 2, The Washington Post published an article stating that the CIA is operating a string of secret prisons in other countries. The purpose of these prisons, according to writer Dana Priest, is the “interrogation” of captured al Qaeda members.
In response to this story, Republican Congressmen Bill Frist and Dennis Hastert are seeking an investigation into whether or not someone leaked this previously classified information to Priest.
Imagine that – someone inside the government may have revealed classified information to a journalist!
Frist & Friends’ concern about the leak and its potential damage to the US is understandable, but it’s also quite an about-face. That’s the first notable point of hypocrisy to consider. That they don’t seem terribly concerned that the story might be true is the second.
If the story is accurate, they should be outraged that a country like ours would do such a dishonest thing as to keep secret detention centers. After all, the only purpose for facilities like that to exist is to allow their operators to do things they shouldn’t to people they don’t want anyone knowing about.
Why is this practice bad?
Just look at former Chilean dictator and current Alzheimer’s patient Augusto Pinochet and his practice of “disappearing” his enemies and critics. During his regime thousands were taken away and never seen again. Is this a practice we should take up?
Pinochet’s name, like Saddam’s, instantly and justifiably conjures up a vile tyrant in most informed minds. (It should be noted, though, that the US helped both of them solidify their power.)
The point? We are practicing policies we have always been “officially” against.
We are the country whose leader has just stated that “we do not torture,” even as his second in command has sought an exemption which will allow the CIA to "interrogate" as they see fit.
Remember the shock when we found Saddam’s torture chambers after the invasion of Iraq? Remember the shame when we later saw pictures of American-made torture chambers in Iraq?
Many of America’s detainees from the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts are seemingly being held indefinitely, and without charges or trial. Too many regimes around the world to name have done the same thing, and for that we’ve historically called them human rights abusers. At least, when it has suited our interests.
To put to rest a belabored notion about these policies at this point, liberals do not object to them out of any love for terrorists or hatred for America. We just realize that these things are morally wrong, un-American, and hypocritical for an ostensibly civilized country to carry out.
Frist and Company’s request for an investigation into the latest leak, while not wrong, is completely hypocritical. They’re asking the wrong question (“Who told you this?” vs. “Why are we doing this?”) for the wrong reason (trying to out-Fitz Patrick).
Until we get our priorities straight, we can never again claim moral superiority over any other country.
11/9 UPDATE: Trent Lott says the leaker was likely a Republican.
11/10 UPDATE: Frist confirms he doesn't care.