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Right Turn
Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 06/14/2012

A better way to handle leaky administrations

The temptation is great to join the Republican bandwagon in calling for an independent prosecutor to investigate the allegations of national security leaking by the Obama administration. Republican administrations and those who served in them have been prosecuted and persecuted for non-crimes, caught up in endless investigations that either criminalized political behavior (evasive answers to Congress) or caught up officials in tertiary crimes when there was in fact no basis for a criminal investigation. The most glaring of these, of course, was the Valerie Plame travesty. There, a leak by Richard Armitage, cowardice by him and boss Secretary of State Colin Powell in refusing to step forward, and a conflict in memory between the accused and a news anchor led to the conviction of Scooter Libby. One would hope that liberals now dismayed by the injustices wrought by independent prosecutors would one day support a pardon for Libby.

If the Obama team did leak classified information, I can’t, in good faith, find a crime there. There is, as The Post editorial board points out, zero possibility that any leakers can be found to have violated blurry federal law. (“Disclosing classified information is not by itself a crime, and courts have found that under the flawed 1917 espionage statute used in such cases, prosecutors must show that a leak was intended to harm U.S. security — an appropriately high bar.”) But moreover, the president is entitled to declassify just about anything he wants. ( For these very reasons, there should never have been a Plame investigation.)

Yes, it’s galling that these concerns are nonexistent in Republican administrations when the media and Democratic lawmakers demand outside investigators on suspicion of far less egregious leaks, but opposition to inequity is a small price to pay for principled conservatives. To my frustrated conservative friends, I can only say: Let the left be the hypocrites.

If the problem here is an untrustworthy attorney general beset by scandal or the subordination of national security to electoral politics, there is a solution: Vote President Obama out, open up the White House and Justice Department files and let history render the judgment on the administration’s conduct.

Rather than conduct private interrogations of culpable and innocent staffers alike, let Mitt Romney take it to Obama in the debates or let Sheldon Adelson pay for a thousand ads to bloom.

This is actually the best and only opportunity to drive a stake through the entire concept of unaccountable Inspectors Javert. Republicans usually bear the brunt of these characters, so during a Democratic administration is the only time to banish them. In fact, pass a law that says only U.S. attorneys not appointed by the current president can undertake these investigations of high-level officials; they need to publicly define the scope of the investigation; they report to the attorney general (or if he or she is the subject of the investigation, then report to the head of the FBI, who is often a holdover from a prior administration); and they must at the conclusion of the investigation turn over all investigation files and all underlying documents (no attorney work product or privilege claims). And then let the chips fall where they may.

By  |  10:30 AM ET, 06/14/2012

Categories:  2012 campaign, National Security

 
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