"Our enemy" is everywhere

A Republican congressman suggests that terrorists inside U.S. intelligence agencies may be responsible for leaks to the press.

Published July 12, 2006 5:12PM (EDT)

With protesters dressed as Osama bin Laden marching outside the New York Times and a radio talk show host advocating the murder of newspaper editors who reveal classified information, you'd think a member of Congress might be a little careful before suggesting that the U.S. news media is getting its stories from terrorist operatives planted inside the CIA.

Meet Peter Hoekstra. Again.

The Michigan Republican was in the news over the weekend because he wrote a letter to the president complaining that his House Intelligence Committee hadn't been briefed on certain unspecified intelligence programs. Now he's back, this time to say that he expects the Bush administration to initiate criminal prosecutions of those involved in leaking information about intelligence programs.

In a speech at the Heritage Foundation Tuesday, Hoekstra suggested that terrorists have infiltrated the U.S. intelligence community in order to co-opt the press into undermining America's war effort. "More frequently than what we would like," he said, "we find out that the intelligence community has been penetrated, not necessarily by al-Qaida, but by other nations or organizations."

That's a serious charge. But proof? Hoekstra doesn't have any.

"I don't have any evidence," he said. "But from my perspective, when you have information that is leaked that is clearly helpful to our enemy, you cannot discount that possibility."

There are all sorts of problems with Hoekstra's logic, but two come immediately to mind. First, his theory is predicated on the notion that the leaks about the Bush administration's warrantless spying program and the Treasury Department's financial transaction monitoring program were "helpful to our enemy." That's not so clear: As we've said before, if "our enemy" was paying any attention at all, he would have known long before reading it in the New York Times that the Bush administration had the legal authority to monitor phone calls -- albeit with warrants -- and that it was monitoring financial transactions through SWIFT. And then there's this: If "our enemy" was the source for the New York Times' reporting on the intelligence programs, then didn't "our enemy" necessarily know about the programs before the New York Times wrote about them?

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

MORE FROM Tim Grieve

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Espionage War Room