By Norman Solomon
One of the grossest hypocrisies of Washington officialdom is the willingness to denounce leaks of some classified information and to countenance leaks of other classified information. But the gap between indignant pretense and standard practice has widened into a chasm in recent years, with Barack Obama’s administration prosecuting leakers in record numbers while protecting its own. Selective prosecution of leaks in the name of national security has never been more extreme.
This duplicity is on full display as the long-delayed trial of former Central Intelligence Agency officer Jeffrey Sterling, charged with seven counts under the Espionage Act and three related charges, began today in a U.S. District Court not far from the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Prosecutors say Sterling was the source for a chapter in the 2006 book “State of War” by New York Times reporter James Risen, revealing a CIA operation that gave flawed nuclear weapon blueprints to Iran in 2000.
The start of the trial comes a few days after front-page stories reported that Attorney General Eric Holder has been dragging his feet after the FBI and Justice Department prosecutors recommended that former CIA Director David Petraeus be indicted for sharing classified information with his biographer-turned-lover Paula Broadwell. Some leaders, such as Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, insist that he not be prosecuted even if he did break the law. “This man has suffered enough in my view,” she said. She has not, of course, taken such a forgiving view of National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Few prominent lawmakers have ever bothered to draw attention to such glaring contradictions. An exception came when Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan observed that the secrecy emperor had no clothes. In a September 1998 letter to President Bill Clinton, the senior senator from New York pointed out that “leaking information to the press in order to bring pressure to bear on a policy question” had become “a routine aspect of government life.” Moynihan added this zinger: “An evenhanded prosecution of leakers could imperil an entire administration.”
Then as now, with upper reaches of the executive branch often leaking like a sieve, evenhanded prosecution of leakers was out of the question.
[To read full article, published by Al Jazeera America, click here.]