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Seeking leaks
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

John McCain called his presidential campaign bus The Straight Talk Express. So it isn't that surprising that the Arizona senator has been blunt enough to say that he's not upset about alleged leaks about the Obama administration's pursuit of terrorists and rogue states because secrets are being revealed. It's because the resulting news stories make the administration look good.

How dare they?

It isn't only Republicans, and not only Republicans who lost the presidential race to Barack Obama four years ago, who are expressing concern about how the AP, The New York Times and other news organizations wound up knowing so much about the administration's drone war against al-Qaida and its novel cyberwar tactics against the Iran's nuclear weapons program. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, has also raised the possibility that laws may have been broken, or that new laws may be needed, to stop this kind of information from finding its way into the public domain.

The bipartisan head-shaking has been enough to push Attorney General Eric Holder to tap two U.S. attorneys to lead a pair of ongoing leak investigations. Last week, Obama vehemently denied that anyone in his administration was leaking classified information for political reasons.

So it now appears that Democrats and Republicans in Washington will be arguing about who leaked what, to what ends and to whose advantage. This will happen even though the history of such endeavors suggests that most of them amount to a hunt for a single piece of straw in a haystack, given that the exchange of information is the very life blood of the capital city.

The two most likely outcomes of these leak probes are nothing — except for a lot of lawyers trading charges and racking up billable hours — or something bad — lower-level bureaucrats fired or reporters threatened with jail.

Meanwhile, nobody has made any serious charge that any of the revealed information did anything to truly harm American national security. The articles, and now books, on the subject have reported things that have already happened, missiles that have already been launched, people who have already been killed. Nothing has tipped off America's enemies about where the next drone might be coming from.

McCain and others are heard to beef that the reporting has made Obama look resolute in his pursuit of terrorists. Others might describe it as cold-blooded.

If Congress wants to be relevant in this process, its members should stop looking for leaks, and start providing oversight of the programs the leaks are about.

Looking for hay in a haystack
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