Theduty of a free press is to report the facts as they are found. By sticking tothat principle, journalists accomplish a great deal in exposing al-Qaâ€™ida andits adherents for what they are.
Justas they report on the terrorists, itâ€™s the job of journalists to report on the howthe war against terrorism is being fought. And when their spotlight is cast onintelligence activities, sound judgment and a thorough understanding of all theequities at play are critically important. Revelations of sources andmethodsâ€”and an impulse to drag anything CIA does to the darkest corner of theroomâ€”can make it very difficult for us to do our vital work.
Whenour operations are exposedâ€”legal, authorized operations overseen by Congressâ€”itreduces the space and damages the tools we use to protect Americans. After thepress reported how banking records on the international SWIFT network could bemonitored, I read a claim that this leakâ€”and I quoteâ€”â€œbears no resemblance tosecurity breaches, like disclosure of troop locations, that would clearlycompromise the immediate safety of specific individuals.â€
Idisagree. In a war that largely depends on our success in collectingintelligence on the enemy, publishing information on our sources and methodscan be just as damaging as revelations of troop or ship movements were in thepast. Now, the compromise to safety can be both immediate and lasting,extending far beyond specific individuals.
Hayden then goes on to cite two examples where leaks to the press compromised operations.
Somesay there is no evidence that leaks of classified information have harmednational security. As CIA Director, Iâ€™m telling you there is, and they have. Letme give you just two examples:
- In one case, leaks provided ammunition for agovernment to prosecute and imprison one of our sources, whose family was alsoendangered. The revelations had an immediate, chilling effect on our ability tocollect against a top-priority target.
- In another, a spate of media reports cost us severalpromising counterterrorism and counterproliferation assets. Sources not eveninvolved in the exposed operation lost confidence that their relationship withus could be kept secret, and they stopped reporting.
Now, of all the leaks to the press of late, only two that I can think of could have compromised individual sources and "operations"–and if the latter pertains to counterproliferation, I’d say the possibilities are even fewer. There’s the revelation that Pakistan had captured Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, Al Qaeda’s IT guy. Pakistani officials claimed that the leaked capture had compromised a large operation–which may well have touched on both counterproliferation and counterterrorism.
Until U.S. officials leaked the arrest of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan toreporters, Pakistan had been using him in a sting operation to trackdown al Qaeda operatives around the world, the sources said.
If we can believe the Pakistanis, then this is almost certainly one of the incidents Hayden refers to. But the leak came from Administration leakers trying to justify one of their orange alerts.
And then, of course, there’s the outing of Valerie Wilson. Her work definitely touched on counterproliferation. Her exposure definitely required the CIA to pull back some operatives working under the Brewster Jennings cover. But it may well have led to either of the consequences Hayden cites–the arrest of assets tied to the cover, or the hesitation of others to work with us.
After all, if the US Vice President is willing to out intelligence secrets, what guarantee do others have that Cheney won’t out assets as well?