Wednesday, January 04, 2006

New Rules Needed for Compromising Security in Time of War

In another time, not so very long ago, it would have been a crime worthy of capital punishment. Consider, for example, the breaking of the German and Japanese codes during World War II and the extraordinary lengths the Allies went through to avoid giving even a hint that the codes had been compromised.

Had any American citizen, government official or journalist revealed this sensitive information, it would have meant many more allied soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines being killed in action. It would have jeopardized our ultimate victory in the war and no doubt the leakers would have been punished most severely, perhaps even with their lives. It was that important to keep the secret.

Flash forward to today, when we are facing an enemy just as ruthless, just as evil and just as threatening to our way of life as we did in World War II. Our very civilization again hangs in the balance. In some ways, the Islamofascists are even more dangerous than the Nazis or Imperial Japanese, because they are essentially stateless, or would have us believe them to be, so the normal restrictions on, say, use of chemical and biological weapons do not factor into their operations.

Revelations by The New York Times of the U.S. National Security Agency’s (NSA) ability to intercept telephone, internet and other electronic communications have probably led our enemies in al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, along with the countries that support them (Iran and Syria, among others) to switch to snail mail and hand-delivered communications. That hurts the war effort and makes it much more difficult to discover and head off terror attacks designed to kill more Americans at home and abroad. There needs to be some accountability.

First and foremost, the people who divulged this secret information need to be found, prosecuted and punished for their crime. To do so, we will have to subpoena reporters’ notes and probably throw some journalists in jail to force them to comply. Thankfully, the precedent for that has already been set by liberals in the much-less-serious Valerie Plame affair. The First Amendment probably protects The New York Times from prosecution, but this breach of security and their active role in it are so serious that some sort of sanction ought to at least be attempted, even if it means forcing a test case upon the courts. At the very least, the White House should ban the newspaper from its press conferences as well as from all government news events. Cut off the flow of information to them and it will make it much more difficult and expensive for them to do their job—or to do further harm to our national security.

Reluctantly, we also should investigate the wisdom of adopting some version of the British Official Secrets Act that would make publishing such sensitive information in time of war a major criminal offense. We also need to change the charters of the CIA, NSA and State Department to make them more like the military, where rules of conduct are governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Military personnel, even those who abhor the policies of the President of the United States, are nonetheless obligated by law to follow his lawful orders as Commander in Chief. Right now, within the CIA and State Department (and presumably within the NSA) there are people who do not agree with the policies of the duly elected president and, like Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame, are doing their utmost to undermine those policies. In wartime, that should be a crime.

This is a war we must win. Therefore, we cannot afford traitors among us, be they journalists or private citizens. The New York Times, in its zeal to get President Bush, has stepped way over the line and made it much more likely that hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans will die in some terror attack that might have been thwarted if the Times hadn’t compromised the intercepts. Loose Lips Sink Ships.

Remember that, fellow Americans, when the terrorists next strike. And be sure to thank The New York Times.

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