The Washington Post

There are many possible motivations for leaking intelligence

Ed's post this morning is a really smart one about leaks of American covert intelligence and military secrets and actions. I applaud him for seeing this as potentially an emerging issue, but I don't agree with the suggestion made by some that these leaks necessarily stem from a desire to make the president look strong on terrorism.

Politics can be a motivation for leaking, of course, but there are many other motivations. Some leak to gain political advantage, but just as many others leak to advance or stop a policy, or to further their own sense of influence. And in this instance, there are potential sources well beyond the White House: both Republicans and Democrats in Congress, the CIA, the National Security Agency and the Pentagon.

The potential policy motivation for the leak is worth noting. One can imagine that there are people in our government who may be disturbed, for instance, by the drone program. It raises all sorts of issues, for example, about the War Powers Act and whether the president has too much power to order killings. Others may be concerned about the long-term payback that the drone war may entail: We have a monopoly on drones today, but how would we feel when other countries decide to cruise over our cities?

I agree with Ed that this is a serious issue, but I think to leap to conclusions that this was a White House effort to bolster Obama's reelection is premature. After all, we are talking about something in the abstract that could ultimately be construed as treason. 


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