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CIA Wants DOJ to Investigate Assassinations Leak

The CIA is none too happy about the recent disclosure of apparently inchoate “significant actions” canceled by Director Leon Panetta. After the activities’ initial disclosure to Congress in late June, additional reporting determined that these actions were a never-operational effort at assassinating members of al-Qaeda and were contracted to the controversial firm Blackwater. Now, Eli Lake and Sara Carter report for The Washington Times that the CIA has requested that the Justice Department open an inquiry into the expanding leaks. Both the CIA and Justice neither confirm nor deny an investigation is taking place.

Victoria Toensing, a conservative former lawyer for the Senate Intelligence Committee, makes a lame and unprovable analogy to the Valerie Plame leak:

“Unlike the Valerie Plame matter, where the cocktail circuit knew she worked for the CIA, these people … Blackwater, were covert,” said Victoria Toensing, a former chief counsel to the Senate intelligence committe. “Every fact that I know points to a violation unlike the Valerie Plame matter. The identifier, the exposer, has to know the relationship is covert.”

First of all, no, “the cocktail circuit” didn’t “know” Plame worked for the CIA. That construction makes it seem like Plame’s identity was an open secret, which is a constant meme simply invented by the right out of thin air in 2003 to minimize the impact of the Bush administration’s leaking of Plame’s identity as a covert agent to discredit her war-critic husband Joseph Wilson. There’s also no way of falsifying it, since — well, who’s the “cocktail circuit” anyway? Toensing knows full well what she’s doing — she’s a lawyer — and she discredits herself by her deceit. Second of all, her point about knowing the Blackwater relationship being covert is surely correct. But isn’t there a difference in the fact that the program was never operative? As a different intelligence official acknowledges to Lake and Carter:

“These leaks, unlike others in the past, didnt cost the country a viable collection or counterterrorism capability,” the official said. “There were different concepts considered and tested over the years, but they always ran into problems.They never proved themselves, so its not a big loss.”

Nevertheless, the two reporters quote the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), as saying:

“They foil our attempts to carry out classified missions,” Sen. Christopher S. Bond said in an interview. “They tell our intelligence community: We don’t have your back; we’re stabbing you in the back. Our allies ask us, ‘How can we trust you to deal in classified matters in private, when the details are leaked to the press?’”

I suppose in a general sense the point is arguable, but in this particular case, there was never an operational program, so the damage can’t be as bad as Bond portrays. But still: it’s possible the law was broken by this leak, and an investigation into whether that was in fact the case is most certainly appropriate.

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