Saturday, June 26, 2004
William Greider, in this week's Nation, argues that the Bush administration is being stedily undermined by a series of leaks from a loose network of "career military officers and senior civil servants at the Pentagon, Justice Department lawyers, and professionals at the CIA or State" -- a group he calls "Embedded Patriots." The secrets they're sitting on, he says, "could lead to a constitutional crisis as momentous as Watergate, maybe more serious because the offenses are far more fundamental":
[W]hat has occurred during the past several months is not the normal commerce. A series of explosive leaks--closely held documents and well-informed tips--have altered the course of politics and might very well influence the outcome of this year's presidential election. Yet we don't know whom to thank. Who gave the Justice Department's "torture" memorandum to the Washington Post? Who provided the International Red Cross's letter of complaints on prisoner abuses to the Wall Street Journal? Who confirmed for the New York Times that Iyad Allawi, the newly appointed Prime Minister of Iraq, had supervised the CIA's terrorist bombing campaign in Baghdad a decade ago? Who informed U.S. News & World Report that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld had authorized the holding of a "ghost prisoner" in violation of international law? Who--someone close to the President?--leaked the "torture" memo written by White House counsel Alberto Gonzales?More hints here.
We don't need to know the identities to grasp that these and other over-the-transom "communications" provided forceful and well-timed contradictions to the White House line. It is also obvious that these leaks could not have come from the lower depths of the bureaucracy. The material is too sensitive for wide distribution. Not to take anything away from aggressive reporters, but the leakers clearly targeted the Post, Times and Journal to achieve maximum impact on Washington. The messages are not from some office crank at the Xerox machine but had to originate among sophisticated and highly placed officers of government . . . .
Cynical readers may resist this explanation, but the motivations within the permanent government are most likely grounded in principle and patriotism, not narrow partisanship. Among bureaucrats, there is always a current of low-level grumbling about the elected leadership, but career civil servants and military rarely take such provocative countermeasures. In this Administration, the level of disgust and alarm is more palpable because Bush has been willing to trash the accepted norms of behavior and to cross perilous thresholds, unaware of the dangers despite many warnings from the professionals. To people who will be in government long after Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld have departed, the Bush crowd looks like the worst possible combination of qualities--it is both incompetent and ruthless.