By Dick Morris - 12/20/05 12:00 AM EST
Whom did the Valerie Plame leak hurt? Valerie, who went from undercover to on the cover when she posed for Vanity Fair? Joe Wilson, who got a best-selling book out of the deal?
The current leak, however, of classified material relating to National Security Agency tactics in intercepting conversations between people abroad and those within the United States is a vastly serious proposition that may have materially compromised investigations in progress and tipped terrorists off to our methods so that they can hide among us undetected.
This leak, far more than the Valerie Plame incident, deserves a full investigation to identify who spilled the beans and to whom and how. The consequences of this leak alone merit an independent investigation and, perhaps, a trial for treason.
Why does Bush need to use taps without warrants in the fight on terror? The answer is obvious: We often don’t know who or what we are looking for.
Our analysts’ best hope of catching and exposing terror plots against us lies in combing the airwaves, listening for suspicious words and phrases or patterns. Unlike criminal investigations, which are deductive — predicated on a single suspect or a number of alternative suspects — terror investigators want to find out what is going on and only an inductive approach — amassing lots of material and searching for patterns — has any chance of success.
For example, in 2002 the federal government tipped off the New York City Police Department that there was a lot of chatter about the Brooklyn Bridge. The resulting police tactics stopped the attack and eventually led to the apprehension of the would-be bomber.
What warrant could the anti-terror investigators have gotten to allow such a search? They had no name, no phone numbers, no idea of what to look for. But a careful analysis of the data averted a massive tragedy.
Politically, the left is making a big mistake in focusing on the issue. Bush is well-served by bringing the terrorism debate home. Isolationists — about 40 percent of the nation, divided between the two parties — will not back him on a war in Iraq but sure will support him against attempts to handcuff homeland security in the name of privacy or civil liberties. By raising this issue — and the concomitant issue of the Patriot Act renewal — the Democrats are snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Iraq is a winner for the left. Homeland security is a loser.
HILLARY’S STRINGS ARE SHOWING
Anyone who wonders about Hillary Clinton’s nuanced position on the war in Iraq need look no further than the polls she is seeing.
To outside observers, Mrs. Clinton’s position — that she takes “responsibility” for her vote but that she wouldn’t have voted for the war if she knew then what she knows now but we shouldn’t withdraw but we should set a series of milestones to use in deciding when to withdraw but we shouldn’t set a timetable for pulling out — seems a trifle tortured. But to her pollster, Mark Penn, it makes perfect political sense.
Unable to keep the puppet strings from showing, Penn blabbed to Washington Post political writer John Harris. In a strategy memo to Democratic moderates, Penn and Democratic Leadership Council President Al From warned that “Democratic leaders could be playing with political dynamite if they call for an immediate pullout of American troops.” Penn and From argued that a middle path is better, in which Democrats reject troop withdrawal but endorse “clear benchmarks” to measure progress and set a path to a victory and a pullout.
Curiously, that is exactly what Hillary said!
A warning to Mark Penn: Hillary doesn’t mind being a puppet, but she does mind if the strings show!
Eileen McGann co-wrote this column.
Morris, a former political adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Bill Clinton, is the author of Condi vs. Hillary: The Next Great Presidential Race.