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Right-Wing Blogs Downplay Bin Laden Tape Damage, Probe

October 10, 2007

Just one day after revelations by the private security firm SITE Institute that a U.S. government leak of its clandestinely obtained Osama Bin Laden video compromised its penetration of Al Qaeda's global computing network, U.S. intelligence officials announced a probe of the damaging episode. But in the Animal Farm world of the right-wing blogosphere where some national security leaks are more equal than others, the Bush administration's latest fear-mongering or perhaps just potential incompetence is hardly cause for concern.
No doubt, the White House has, as Ricky Ricardo would say, some 'splainin' to do. After SITE founder Rita Katz told the Washington Post "techniques that took years to develop are now ineffective and worthless," Fran Townsend, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, promised a "typical leak investigation" by the Director of National Intelligence.
And in the wake of White House press secretary Dana Perino's gymnastic contortions to explain away the leak Tuesday, that investigation is now coming. As the Post detailed Wednesday:

Ross Feinstein, a spokesman for the director of national intelligence, said officials are looking into the leak allegation by the SITE Intelligence Group, which passed the video on to the White House and the director of national intelligence's office before its leak.
"At this point, we don't think there was a leak from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence or the National Counterterrorism Center," Feinstein said.

But for the White House and its allies on the right who called for the prosecution of the New York Times in the wake of its 2005 reporting on illegal NSA domestic surveillance, the damage done by the premature Bin Laden tape release is just a tempest in a teapot. That at, at least, is what a quick survey of the conservative blogosphere would suggest.
Over at Powerline, supposed one-time blog of the year, John Hinderaker asks "Can we please, finally, have an investigation into a real leak?" Echoing the line of The Jawa Report and Milblogs, Powerline suggests that ABC published the Bin Laden video on September 7 in advance of Fox News, either because it separately received the tape or transcript from another source or because SITE itself instigated the leak. Hotair, which initially decried "years of painstaking work by SITE to break into and monitor Al Qaeda's online servers, flushed in an instant by some moron who wanted to impress his media contacts with how in-the-loop he was," quickly returned to the White House's amen corner. ABC and "the White House surely had it also, contrary to what Fielding allegedly told Katz."
Captain's Quarters downplayed the impact of the Bin Laden video imbroglio, claiming "the US government insists that the leak did no real damage to their intel capabilities" while adding, "let's not forget that the destruction of the Obelisk network will have created difficulties for AQ [Al Qaeda], too." But at least CQ allowed for the possibility of Bush administration incompetence in compromising SITE's hard-won access to the Al Qaeda "Obelisk" network of servers:

"It could just have been stunning incompetence. More will undoubtedly be forthcoming on this story, and we'll need more details to really know what happened."

The leak of the Bin Laden tape could have any number of possible explanations, including the now standard and thoroughly believable claim of Bush administration incompetence. But coming as it did on Friday, September 7, just days before General David Petraeus' report to Congress on the "surge" in Iraq, the White House had every motivation to play up the Al Qaeda/Bin Laden threat at that time.
How and why the Bin Laden tape found its way to ABC and Fox at the cost of jeopardizing vital intelligence assets is exactly what an investigation into the leak of classified security information should reveal. Just not for the conservative blogosphere. For them, as Powerline's Hinderaker suggests, leak investigations are reserved for opponents of the White House and those revealing Bush administration wrong-doing. Not, that is, for anything having to do with Al Qaeda.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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