This week, liberal hysteria over the Bush administration’s intelligence activities will maintain a fevered pitch worthy of Leo Bloom. Bloom — the emotionally terrorized accountant in Mel Brooks’s The Producers — couldn’t be slapped out of his panic attack. When Max Bialystock finally throws water in his face, Bloom gibbers, “I’m in pain, I’m wet, and I’m still hysterical.” The libs are all wet and still hysterical too. Unfortunately, the Bush administration’s only response is to throw in a rhetorical towel.
From the libs, we’ll hear that Gen. Mike Hayden shouldn’t become Director of Central Intelligence because he plotted secretly to intercept terrorists’ phone calls and e-mails. We’ll hear more from Plame leak investigator Perpetual Patrick Fitzgerald on how the White House equivalent of Dr. Evil — Dick Cheney — actually told his staff to figure out if Glam Gal Val sent Joe Wilson to Niger on a CIA-funded junket. And we’ll hear more about how St. Mary of Langley — fired CIA employee Mary McCarthy — nobly sacrificed her career to leak top secret information to the Washington Post.
From the Bush White House all we’ll get is more talk. Tonight the President will talk about tough measures on illegal immigration. He’ll talk about how we’re ending the insane “catch and release” program that turns captured illegals loose until a court date almost none show up for. (Oops: that was what the President said six months ago. Catch and release continues to this day because Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff — for the umpteenth time on the umpteenth subject — didn’t get it done.) We’ll hear how the Prez proposes sending National Guard troops to the Mexican border, a deployment unsustainable for longer than the few months between now and the election. And we’ll hear that Gen. Hayden is precisely the remedy the CIA needs, though not why that is so.
A question and a comment from last week serve to focus us on the problem of talking instead of doing. On Fox News the other night, I told John Gibson that the people who are leaking top-secret information and damaging national security — a large and growing crowd of CIA, State Department and Congressional sources — should be spending the rest of their lives in jail. When Gibson asked me why we weren’t seeing indictments, I could only throw up my hands and say Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should be answering the question. And so he should.
In a conference call with a very senior administration official, the official insisted that Gen. Hayden wasn’t just a “techie” — which I called Hayden in last week‘s Loose Canons — because Hayden had been briefly (and personally) involved in gathering human intelligence earlier in his career. I was partially wrong about Hayden’s humint credentials. He has some, but not much. But there is not one word out of the White House, Hayden or Congress about how he can possibly be the right guy to clean out the Augean Stables of Langley, or whether he even intends to try. It’s all part of the same mess. The Bush White House has forgotten that you can’t beat something — in this case liberal opposition to anything that helps with the war — with nothing.
Soon after 9/11, a trickle of leaks began and turned into a flood. Yet the only serious investigation the Justice Department has mounted is the Plame Name Blame Game, which is a huge fuss about a “leak” so trivial that it falls under the principle de minimis non curat lex. The law doesn’t deal with trifles. (Except, apparently, this one.) The administration insists correctly that leaks of bin Laden’s cellphone use, the CIA secret terrorist prisons, the NSA terrorist surveillance program, all damaged national security. Almost two years ago, I reported that three Democrat Senators (Rockefeller, Durbin and Wyden) were referred to the Justice Department for criminal investigation for leaking a top-secret satellite program. That investigation, like the others, apparently sits in the AG’s “too hard” pile. Question for Mr. Gonzales: If you don’t indict a few people and bring them to trial damned soon, why should we expect anyone to obey the laws against disclosing secrets?
Those of us who have supported the President consistently need actions we can support, not more words. The CIA is in desperate straits. John Negroponte’s answer to that is to move CIA analysts from CIA to his shop. This example of his approach to intelligence reform — as I said last week — is precisely the opposite of what’s desperately needed. The leak culture of the CIA and several other agencies has damaged them to the point they can’t be trusted by policymakers. Question for Mr. Negroponte: Just what will you push Gen. Hayden to do to restore the CIA’s capabilities and reliability? Question for Gen. Hayden: Why should we believe you will clean out the CIA’s rogue bureaucrats?
Last week, guest-hosting the Hugh Hewitt show, I asked callers for two sentences that would sum up a plan to get the White House back in the saddle. About three fourths of the callers made closing the borders central to their ideas. Question for the President: after five years of inaction on illegal immigration, after going to the UN on Iran, after allowing our intelligence agencies to continue to decay, after indulging in mind-boggling amounts of pork barrel spending, why should any conservatives respond favorably to yet more promises that aren’t accompanied by decisive action?
Talk is cheap, Mr. President. Those of us who want to support you can’t if all we get is more of it.
TAS contributing editor Jed Babbin is the author of Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe Are Worse Than You Think (Regnery, 2004) and, with Edward Timperlake, Showdown: Why China Wants War With the United States (Regnery, May 2006 — click here to obtain a free chapter).