When Dana Priest of the Washington Post broke the story about secret prisons in Eastern Europe to which suspected terrorists were “disappeared” so they could be interrogated without the nosies from the Red Cross knowing about it and without any risk of having questions asked about torture in American courts, BushCo and its collaborators and useful idiots in the right-wing media and Red Blogistan were up in arms.
Didn’t we know, they said, there’s a war on? Wasn’t it obvious, they argued, that revealing this information, on top of what had already come out about Abu Ghraib, would help inflame anti-American sentiments and cost soldiers’ lives? And could anyone but a liberal doubt that secret interrogation sites were “vital to national security“? (Of course the leak was said to prove how wrong it was to be concerned about whether the White House had decided to burn a CIA NOC, but then more or less everything is said to prove that.)
Now that the leaker of the information has been unmasked and fired, the same folks are gleeful about the fact that she turns out to have been a Democrat. And they’re out for blood: Why, they demand, was she fired rather than being prosecuted? (Hat tip: Glenn Reynolds. If Glenn disagrees, he doesn’t say so.)
Duhhhhh… wait, don’t tell me … ummmm …. because she’d assert a “public interest” defense, which would mean putting the story back on the front pages for weeks, and risk having the facts about what’s been going on in those dungeons revealed in open court? Just a guess.
Anyway, she’d probably get off. I’d be surprised if even this Supreme Court would hold as a matter of law that revealing criminal activity is a crime if the activity in question is labeled “classified.”
But demanding that a political opponent go to jail for embarrassing the Beloved Leader is just par for the course. This is a special situation, so it calls for a special brand of lunacy.
Right Wing Nuthouse (their label, not mine) jumps on a report that the European Union investigator has said that there is no “proof beyond reasonable doubt” that the “renditions” happened or that the secret prisons exist (which, quoting from Little Green Footballs, RWN overinterprets as “no evidence”) and proceeds to “connect the dots”: the whole thing was made up out of whole cloth as a sting to catch CIA leakers. (No, really: I lack the invention to make this stuff up.)
Captain’s Quarters endorses the idea, and embellishes this fantasy by calling a leak search a “mole hunt”: a “mole,” of course, is a traitor working for a foreign intelligence service, but of course in Rightwingistan anything contrary to the will of the Decider is effectively treason anyway, so who’s counting?
And Glenn Reynolds links to Captain’s Quarters without in any way suggesting that the whole thing is idiotic babbling. A Technorati search shows that much of Red Blogistan is repeating as fact that the secret prisons are now known not to have exist, and that Priest just won a “Pulitzer for a lie.”
Of course, Dear Reader, you’ve spotted the crashing fallacy here. (Put aside for the moment the fact that the Administration has steadfastly refused to confirm or deny the report, rather than denouncing it, which would have been the obvious thing to do if it were false and damaging to the national interest. Put aside the fact that Priest had multiple sources, including documents, and that the Administration asked her to withhold the names of the countries where the secret prisons are located. Those are mere facts.)
Think about it: If revealing the information was a crime because it was sure to inflame anti-American sentiment and encourage jihadis, wouldn’t putting that information out as a sting to catch a Democratic leaker at the CIA have been just a tad … extreme, like getting rid of termites by burning down the house? (And of course trying to prosecute someone for leaking a spoof document would be absurd.)
After all, whatever damage the story did to the nation was largely independent of its truth; even if it were convincingly refuted now, the people making IED’s would surely never hear about the refutation, and wouldn’t believe it if they did hear about it.
Glenn’s in a tough spot. He despises torture as un-American (by contrast with, e.g., LaShawn Barber, who seems to like it), he loves the War on Terror, and if he’s not actually pro-Bush he’s certainly anti-anti-Bush. So he’d much, much rather believe that torture, and the permanent imprisonment of falsely accused innocents like the Uighurs held at Gitmo, aren’t part of the War on Terror as BushCo is now fighting it.
But they are. Any grown-up discussion of the problem needs to start from there, and then ask what to do about it. Spy-novel fantasies should be reserved for play-time.