Saturday, July 08, 2006

Another Leak

Speaking of embarassing polemicists, not long after writing my last post, I caught the first 15 minutes or so of the Countdown with Keith Olbermann midnight repeat. Unfortunately, a transcript won't be up until monday, but the first story was about the news today of the threat to attack the PATH train tunnels between NY and NJ. The former sportscaster used his favorite tactic of arguing that the administration released the news of the threat, even though it hadn't advanced very far in the planning stages, in order to perpetuate a climate of fear in the American populace, presumably because it's an election year.

The only problem, of course, is that the administration did not disclose the news of this planned attack. Someone leaked it to the Daily News, who printed it up in a big story this morning. That also explains why we found out about it while it was still at such an early stage. The people at the press conference in New York City today included Mayor Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, Superintendent of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Samuel Plumeri and SAIC of the FBI's New York office, Mark Mershon. There was not a single administration official. Only after the Daily News published the story, and after the press conference, did the FBI and Department of Homeland Security issue a statement.

As an aside, ff you think back over the last 5 years, the administration has made public very few instances where they thought a terrorist attack was in the works or could be possible. I remember a Somali immigrant who was accused of plotting to bomb a Columbus, OH shopping mall in 2004, the possible plot against the Citigroup, Prudential, World Bank, NYSE and IMF buildings in New York, New Jersey and Washington, the plot to bomb the Bank of America Tower in Los Angeles, the Miami plot from a couple weeks ago, and now this one. (The color coded scale was also used a fair amount, particularly with regards to the NY subway system, but news of "color changes" has been very scarce in recent months and years, indicating that that was more an attempt to show that the newly-established DHS was "doing something," and certainly not to affect political races). So, in all, that was 5 plots that were made public in all their detail in the last 5 years. (I'm not saying that was all of them, but those were certainly the big ones - if I missed some, please let me know). Hardly the use of a political tool by the administration.

Going back to today's news, the FBI was, in fact, upset that the story was leaked. They realized it was in the early planning stages, and there was a great deal of information that they, and intelligence agencies of other countries involved, had yet to learn about the plot itself, the individuals planning it and the connections they had with other terrorists and terrorist plots.
Authorities said they hadn't intended to release details about the plot this early and that whoever leaked the information had compromised the FBI's relationship with some foreign intelligence services.

The person who leaked the details is"clearly someone who doesn't understand the fragility of international relations,'' Mershon said. `We've had a number of uncomfortable questions and some upsetment with these foreign intelligence services that had been working with us on a daily basis.''

In the wake of the New York Times, Washington Post and other newspapers printing stories about the NSA programs, the prisons in Europe and SWIFT, if those who have been unyielding in their defense of the public's right to know might be willing to admit that publishing this story did more harm than good in terms of the damage done to our relationships with foreign intelligence services as well as the additional intelligence we could have gotten by continued surveillance of these individuals and their accomplices. If the answer is no, then I ask, with regards to the public's right to know, what did we get out of this news? People like Olbermann were criticizing the administration for letting us know. So how can the administration possible win? Apparently, it can't.


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