Public Nuisance

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The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Monday, September 29, 2003
The Bush administration hasn't always had such a laissez faire attitude to leaking of classified data as it shows when the leaker is one of their own.

The FBI has proposed administering polygraph exams to members of Congress who had access to information that was leaked.

Senate leaders agreed Sunday that members of Congress should not submit to lie detector tests as part of an FBI investigation of intelligence leaks....

The FBI investigation was requested by congressional intelligence committees after news organizations reported details of Arabic conversations intercepted by the National Security Agency on Sept. 10. The conversations made vague references to an impending attack on the United States.

These leaks, unlike certain others we could mention, drew a direct presidential response:

MR. FLEISCHER: I think your question is in regard to a report that was in the newspapers and widely on TV yesterday and this morning that had extraordinarily specific information that was provided under a promise of confidentiality to the committees that are doing the investigation of events leading up to 9/11. And the information that was leaked is alarmingly specific. And the President does have very deep concerns about anything that would be inappropriately leaked that could in any way endanger America's ability to gather intelligence information, anything that could harm our ability to maintain sources and methods, and anything that could interfere with America's ability to fight the war on terrorism.

The President was deeply concerned about these leaks. We do not know who did it. The President earlier today asked the Vice President to call the chairmen of the committees who are doing the investigation. The Vice President spoke with Congressman Goss and with Senator Graham to convey the President's concerns about anything that would be released that could indeed harm America's ability to gather information and to maintain access to that information. And the President and the Vice President are satisfied that the chairmen will address this issue.

When an embarassing leak came out of the Air Marshal program, there was no lack of effort to track it down,

The Transportation Security Administration is conducting a “witch hunt” to ferret out and discipline employees in the federal air marshal program who have talked to the media, several sources within the program told Some air marshals are even being threatened with having the USA Patriot Act, a law enacted to help fight terrorism, used against them. The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the TSA, denies that any such investigation is taking place.

HOWEVER, A DEPARTMENT Of Homeland Security spokesman did acknowledge that an investigation is under way surrounding the circumstances involving a decision to pull air marshals from high risk flights in an attempt to save money at the cash strapped TSA, a story first reported in late July on

The TSA leaker exposed how poor the Bush record really is on homeland security, just as Joe Wilson helped expose that the Iraq invasion was more about Bush's quarrels with Saddam Hussein than about protecting the nation from WMD. Just as this administration has politicized other aspects of government, it has politicized leaking, using existing and new law aggressively to intimidate insiders who warn the public of its failures, but leaking and declassifying infornation that it considers politically useful to publicize.