The Washington Post is really starting to piss me off. And Politico. And (of course) CNN.
I thought of it when I read Politico’s story about how Trump’s efforts to catch leakers were having a “chilling effect” on the intelligence community. To which my reaction, of course, was to say “Freakin’ A! What did you think it was supposed to do!”
Well, okay, I didn’t say “freakin'”.
This came out about the same time as the congressional report that there has been a damaging intelligence leak every damned day since Trump was inaugurated.
Some are more important than others, of course — it was just embarrassing when it was leaked that the U.S. was wiretapping the Russian ambassador (no — really!?) and a little frustrating when the press leaked that the 35 Russians expelled and the Russian diplomatic facilities closed by Obama were actually doing intelligence collection (gee, no kidding? Have you ever looked at the antenna farms on the roof of the Russian Consulate in San Francisco?).
Some of the leaks were far worse, like confirmation that the Obama administration had been listening to, unmasking, and distributing conversations with thousands of “U.S. Persons.” In that case, the damage was to whatever remaining trust Americans might have that the NSA and CIA aren’t being used as political arms of the administration; this is a subtle cancer on the legitimacy of either agency. The degree to which “Russian collusion” is still an issue, while this story is not, ought to be a major crisis for the credibility of American media, but I’m afraid that boat has already left the bus station.
The worst of it, though, is the Washington Post story a few days ago:
Golly, folks at WaPo, does no one see the problem here?
The article starts out:
Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried “eyes only” instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides.
Okay, look: if it’s so sensitive that it can’t be in the presidential daily brief but it’s delivered “eyes only” to Obama and three aides, what is it doing in the Washington Post?!
Oh, and just in passing, we have Clapper, Obama, and three aides. Which three aides? You’ve just told us that someone revealed that information to you, and it pretty much has to be one of those five people. Unless there’s a secret pardon for them, one of them just violated the Espionage Act.
It goes on:
Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race.
But it went further. The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.
So here we are revealing that we have a source leaking Putin’s secret instructions about damaging Hillary’s campaign. At this point, there are basically two possibilities: either this information is being fed to us as disinformation, or we just blew a highly placed source inside the Kremlin. If it’s the second case, the Washington Post just not only eliminated a valuable source, but they probably killed someone.
But it goes on:
Over that five-month interval, the Obama administration secretly debated dozens of options for deterring or punishing Russia, including cyberattacks on Russian infrastructure, the release of CIA-gathered material that might embarrass Putin and sanctions that officials said could “crater” the Russian economy. ….
Obama also approved a previously undisclosed covert measure that authorized planting cyber weapons in Russia’s infrastructure, the digital equivalent of bombs that could be detonated if the United States found itself in an escalating exchange with Moscow. The project, which Obama approved in a covert-action finding, was still in its planning stages when Obama left office. It would be up to President Trump to decide whether to use the capability.
So let’s translate this: the Obama administration considered a bunch of counter-attacks (and eventually just did some sanctions), but they also started planning much more serious cyberattacks that could be installed now and fired later. They expected them to be finished in the next administration, which meant under Trump.
Only now, the Washington Post just told the world, including the Russians, about them. This almost certainly means that they’ve completely eliminated the possibility these attacks might be used, and have also realized we had the capability.
Which is the point at which I tweeted back to Greg Miller “What the hell is wrong with you?!” or something to that effect.
I mean, let’s sum it up: in this one story, the Washington Post just leaked two extremely sensitive chunks of information, blew a source that probably took years to develop and who, if lucky, was spirited out of the country before FSB took him to the Basement of No Return, then told the Russians that not only did we have the capability to install “cyberbombs” in their infrastructure, but were actively making plans. (Oh hey, all you Democrats who were talking about hacking Podesta’s emails being an “act of war”? THIS is what a cyberwarfare act of war would look like, not just embarrassing someone.)
And why? To add to the story about Trump colluding with the Russians by implication. Oh, and one other reason: these leaks now mean that Trump probably can’t use the cyber-“weapons” that were being discussed.
The overuse of the word “treason” is a sort of pet peeve of mine, as I’ve written before. Well, this still doesn’t quite make it, because we’re not actually at war with Russia. (If we keep leaking stories about how we’re preparing to attack their infrastructure, it could happen yet, however.) But at this point it seems clear that Miller and the leakers did this purposefully, and the leakers did it in violation of their oaths and with utter disregard to the safety of the United States of America.