14 November 2007

Another Security Breach

She was born in Lebanon. Her student visa expired, so she entered into a sham marriage. She got citizenship. She joined the FBI and CIA. She searched federal databases without authorization, looking for information that might show links between her relatives and Hezbollah. Goody.

A Lebanese national who fraudulently gained U.S. citizenship through a sham marriage managed to obtain sensitive jobs at both the FBI and CIA, and at one point used her security clearance to access restricted files about the terrorist group Hezbollah, according to court documents filed yesterday.
Is this really any shock, though? It seems that the FBI and CIA (not to mention several other federal agencies) have had a very difficult time over the last several years keeping secrets, well, secret.

02 November 2005 - Washington Post
The possible existance of secret CIA facilities throughout the world used for holding and interrogating high-level terrorist detainees was disclosed. The Washington Post did not identify any of its sources, but note often how secret the program was.

16 December 2005 - New York Times
The existence of a program monitoring of international telephone calls and international e-mail messages in an effort to track connections to terrorism was revealed. The New York Time agreed to keep the sources anonymous due to the fact that the program was classified.

11 May 2006 - USA Today
A possible NSA data-mining program that allowed the agency to analyze patterns of phone usage to indentify terrorist activity was published. USA Today agreed to keep the sources anonymous due to the secrecy of the program.

22 May 2007 - ABC
An operation that had allegedly received presidential approval to destabilize the Iranian government was disclosed in ABC News' blog, The Blotter. ABC agreed to keep the sources anonymous due to the "sensitive nature of the subject."
The security of classified information needs to be ensured, and those in the government who violate secrecy oaths must be substantially punished. That is the only way that this is ever going to change.

And, before anyone tries to pull the "what about Valerie Plame-Wilson" b.s., let me nip that one right in the bud. Plame was a CIA staffer. She was identified as Joe Wilson's wife to Novak and Woodward by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. The person who wrote the law against outing active covert agents said that Plame wasn't covered under that law. Joe Wilson's various charges were debunked during his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. The whole thing was nothing more that a three-year-long smoke-and-mirrors distraction from other much more important issues. The Washington Post, not a politically conservative newspaper, covered this in an editorial in the fall of 2006.

It follows that one of the most sensational charges leveled against the Bush White House -- that it orchestrated the leak of Ms. Plame's identity to ruin her career and thus punish Mr. Wilson -- is untrue. The partisan clamor that followed the raising of that allegation by Mr. Wilson in the summer of 2003 led to the appointment of a special prosecutor, a costly and prolonged investigation, and the indictment of Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, on charges of perjury. All of that might have been avoided had Mr. Armitage's identity been known three years ago. [...]

Nevertheless, it now appears that the person most responsible for the end of Ms. Plame's CIA career is Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson chose to go public with an explosive charge, claiming -- falsely, as it turned out -- that he had debunked reports of Iraqi uranium-shopping in Niger and that his report had circulated to senior administration officials. He ought to have expected that both those officials and journalists such as Mr. Novak would ask why a retired ambassador would have been sent on such a mission and that the answer would point to his wife. He diverted responsibility from himself and his false charges by claiming that President Bush's closest aides had engaged in an illegal conspiracy. It's unfortunate that so many people took him seriously.
So, now that the special prosecutor is done with the dog-and-pony show of the Plame/Wilson affair, maybe one can be appointed to find and punish the officials who have leaked actual classied information. And maybe our security and intelligence agencies can start vetting their ranks in order to find and remove those whose motives may be suspect.


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