Loyalty — fealty to one’s nation, religion or smaller social group — is one of those concepts that Americans have allowed to lose its meaning. The media are the most guilty because they have decided that loyalty to the nation depends on who is president.
In 1993, Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s admonished American society for “defining deviancy down.” He was speaking of social, even criminal, behavior which had been intolerable but had become tolerable because society had lowered its standards by which the conduct of citizens was to be judged. Loyalty to our nation’s security, long thought to be a citizen’s duty, has been defined down so far that it is almost undistinguishable from conduct that used to be considered treason.
Treason is the polar opposite of loyalty. In order for someone to be guilty of treason (the only crime that is defined in the Constitution) a citizen of the United States would have to levy war against it, adhere to its enemies or give them aid and comfort.
Before George W. Bush won the presidency, the concept of loyalty was already muddied. Leakers — not spies — had probably found their voice during George Washington’s presidency. (It was not for nothing that he labeled the press a bunch of “infamous scribblers.”)
The left never forgave 43 for winning the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court battle and becoming president. The establishment media, overwhelmingly liberal, decided that not only was he an illegitimate president, but that they would conduct an unceasing campaign against him. And then came 9/11.
Because Bush 43 wasn’t a legitimate president, the media reasoned, his “global war on terror” — the “GWOT” — was also illegitimate. The press — fed by leakers at all levels of government — became what amounted to a disloyal opposition force.
We need to look back eleven years to when our intelligence agencies were warned by the New York Times that the paper was about to publish a series of stories revealing our most closely guarded secret means of intercepting communications between and among terrorists, including top secret National Security Agency programs that performed the tasks.
President Bush placed a personal call to the publisher of the Times, asking him to kill the stories because they would damage the nation’s security. He was turned down flat. Not only did the Times publish its stories, the same day they came out Times reporter James Risen’s book, State of War, was published, revealing at once everything that the stories reported.
Loyalty to the nation was subordinated to the liberal media’s compulsion to publish the nation’s secrets because they were George W. Bush’s secrets. The thought that publishing those secrets could damage our ability to interdict terrorist attacks, thus costing American lives, was deemed far less important than damaging President Bush.
Loyalty to the nation didn’t matter. To the media, it still doesn’t.
Barack Obama’s presidency brought about a different kind of loyalty among the media. Loyalty to Obama was reason enough to keep his secrets, but his compulsion to destroy Bush’s legacy fed enough leaks to keep the anti-Bush media busy.
President Trump’s presidency is being gradually destroyed by leaks and his reactions to them. Many, if not the vast majority, of those leaks are coming from the intelligence community and the White House itself.
A large part of the problem emanates from the hundreds (thousands?) of Obama-era holdovers. One of my sources confirmed recently that the National Security Council staff, which grew to about 400 people under Susan Rice, Obama’s national security advisor, hasn’t purged the loyal Obama people. Lt. Gen. McMaster, himself an Obama general, has apparently been advised that he can’t rid himself of those people if, in fact, he desires to.
The leaks against Trump and his team have led to the “Russia collusion” investigations which are tying Trump’s presidency into a Gordian knot. Two newspapers, the New York Times and the Washington Post, have published many reports fueled by these leaks.
Last week, the Washington Post reported — based on a leak that had to have come from an intelligence community source — that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had two calls with Russian ambassador Kislyak that had been intercepted by intelligence agencies. The Post implied that Sessions’s disclosures of those conversations were misleading. Kislyak’s recollection of the conversations reportedly differed substantially from Sessions’s. Which is not surprising because Kislyak has every reason to sew doubt and confusion in American politics. As a Putin agent, that’s his job.
I knew Sessions when he was a senator. He’s as straight a shooter as can be. Anyone who would believe a Russian professional liar over him is a fool. Meanwhile, the president is insulting Sessions almost daily, calling him “beleaguered” and “weak.”
Another big example came in an interview Gen. Raymond “Tony” Thomas, commander of Special Operations Command, gave to Fox News’ Catherine Herridge last week. In the interview, Thomas pointed to the 2015 raid in which ISIS’s oil minister, Abu Sayyef, was killed and his wife was captured. She proved to be the source of a lot of information that could have led SOCOM to ISIS’s “caliph,” al-Baghdadi.
Thomas said, “That was a very good lead. Unfortunately, it was leaked in a prominent national newspaper about a week later and that lead went dead.” Thomas added, “So, the challenge we have [is] in terms of where and how our tactics and procedures are discussed openly. There’s a great need to inform the American public about what we’re up to. There’s also great need to recognize things that will absolutely undercut our ability to do our job.”
The newspaper Thomas referred to was the New York Times. The Times rebutted Thomas’s assertion, saying that a May 16, 2015 press statement by then-defense secretary Ashton Carter contained the same information. It clearly didn’t.
In pertinent part, Carter’s statement said:
Last night, at the direction of the Commander in Chief, I ordered U.S. Special Operations Forces to conduct an operation in al-Amr in eastern Syria to capture an ISIL senior leader known as Abu Sayyaf and his wife Umm Sayyaf. Abu Sayyaf was involved in ISIL’s military operations and helped direct the terrorist organization’s illicit oil, gas, and financial operations as well.
Abu Sayyaf was killed during the course of the operation when he engaged U.S. forces.
U.S. forces captured Umm Sayyaf, who we suspect is a member of ISIL, played an important role in ISIL’s terrorist activities, and may have been complicit in what appears to have been the enslavement of a young Yezidi woman rescued last night.
Going far beyond what Carter’s statement said, the Times story reported that an intelligence treasure trove was captured in the raid. The story said:
New insights yielded by the seized trove — four to seven terabytes of data, according to one official — include how the organization’s shadowy leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, operates and tries to avoid being tracked by coalition forces.
Mr. Baghdadi meets periodically with regional emirs, or leaders, at his headquarters in Raqqa in eastern Syria. To ensure his safety, specially entrusted drivers pick up each of the emirs and demand that they hand over their cellphones and any other electronic devices to avoid inadvertently disclosing their location through tracking by American intelligence, the officials said.
Wives of the top Islamic State leaders, including Mr. Baghdadi’s, play a more important role than previously known, passing information to one another, and then to their spouses, in an effort to avoid electronic intercepts.
The Times reported precisely the kind of information that any responsible reporter or editor would have known would cause al-Baghdadi to change the way he operated and thus destroy the lead SOCOM had on him. Gen. Thomas was precisely correct in blaming the Times for reporting leaked information of exactly the kind that would be actionable by our enemy.
The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the rest of the liberal media have defined loyalty down to the point that giving aid and comfort to the enemy — giving them information they need to survive our attacks — is more loyal than protecting the secrets on which our safety depends.
We’re at war, damn it. The media — as Gen. Thomas said — has the responsibility to refrain from undercutting the ability of our armed forces to defeat the enemy. They endanger all of us, especially our troops, every time they shirk that responsibility. And they do it almost every day.