Keller on Leak Uproar: Journalists Should Be ‘Worried’

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By: E&P Staff

In an article posted at the National Journal site late today, reporter Murray Waas trains his eye on the uproar over the latest leak case, this one involving dismissed CIA officer Mary McCarthy. Much of the article recalls a mostly forgotten March 2003 incident involving Sen. Pat Roberts, the influential Republican, who got into hot water himself when he revealed sensitive information about the initial “shock and awe” attempt to kill Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

But Waas also gets comments on the general campaign biteback against the press by the administration on the leak issue.

He reveals that in responding to his query, Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times, charged that the Bush White House is on a campaign to intimidate the press. “I’m not sure journalists fully appreciate the threat confronting us,” Keller wrote. “The Times in the eavesdropping case, the Post for its CIA prison stories, and everyone else who has tried to look behind the war on terror.”

Keller added that “there’s sometimes a vindictive tone in the way [administration officials] talk about dragging reporters before grand juries and in the hints that reporters who look too hard into the public’s business risk being branded traitors.” He warned that journalists possibly are “suffering a bit of subpoena fatigue. Maybe some people are a little intimidated by the way the White House plays the soft-on-terror card. Whatever the reason, I worry that we’re not as worried as we should be.”

Waas, who has broken many stories relating to the Plame/CIA leak case, also talked to, among others, an unnamed former senior intelligence official who said that the Bush administration has targeted “leaks and leakers they don’t like, while turning a blind eye to those they do like, or [leaks] they do themselves.”

Should this continue, the former official said, it would set a “dangerous precedent in that any president will be able to control the flow of information regarding any policy dispute…. When historians examine this, they will see that is how we got into war with Iraq.”

President Bush has said that the those who leaked to the Times on the domestic surveillance story engaged in a “shameful act” and were “helping the enemy” in a “time of war.”

But Democrats on Capitol Hill, Waas related, argue that while the Bush administration has been pressing in an unprecedented way to stop leaks of classified information, “White House officials have simultaneously engaged in their own leaks that are often worse then the ones they criticize.”

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