'Libertine Journalism'

J$P Instant Transcript! Terrorism expert Michael Scheuer on leaks, newspapers, and clandestine operations.

From The O'Reilly Factor, June 27 2006:

BILL O'REILLY [FOX NEWS]: The Impact segment tonight, the Bush administration claims that exposing programs like telephoning monitoring and financial tracking helps the terrorists. But is that true? Joining us now from Washington, Michael Scheuer, former CIA terrorism analyst, and the author of the best-selling book, Imperial Hubris, a must-read for terror war if you want to understand it. OK, Michael, you've got disgruntled people, you've always had them within the CIA, NSA, any agency has them. And they have access to secret programs like this financial deal, like programs you worked on. They look around for a sympathetic ear; the New York Times obviously is that. How serious should I take it?

MICHAEL SCHEUER: Well first, Mr O'Reilly, the leaks that come out of the government are generally from political appointees rather than civil servants. And so one of the reasons they never get investigated to any great extent is because the President doesn't want one of his appointees to be fingered for responsibility. In terms of damage, myself I think the bank story and the eavesdropping story don't hurt in terms of letting the terrorists know what we're doing. The terrorists are as smart as we are, and know that we'll use all the capabilities we have. What it hurts drastically, however, is the ability of the clandestine parts of the US government, the CIA, parts of NSA, to work with foreign governments and foreign intelligence services, because we simply cannot keep a secret. And there is no real story, there is no substance to the banking story, except that it's being done.

O'REILLY: OK, so what you're saying is, if we need the cooperation of Romania, or Egypt, or any country, and we want them to do something that might embarrass them or put them in danger, like rendition, they're going to say: We're not going to cooperate with you, USA, because it's going to be on the front page of the New York Times, and it's going to be hell to pay for us, so forget it.

SCHEUER: That's exactly correct, sir. There were things that we did with the Egyptian government, that we did with other governments around the world, that has never been exposed because those governments can keep a secret.

O'REILLY: OK, but the left-wing press in this country firmly believes there should not be any secrets, that everything should be up and up, that we should know everything we're doing with Egypt and Romania and rendition and Guantanamo. Everything should be transparent. And I say, you can't fight a war like that, particularly a war on terror. What say you?

SCHEUER: Well you can't run a government like that, sir. Only fools would argue that there's no need for secrets or clandestine operations. The idea that we don't read other people's mail went out with World War II. Really what we're looking at is kind of libertine journalism. There is more editorial responsibility at my daughter's middle school newspaper than there is at the New York Times or the Washington Post.

O'REILLY: Why is that? Surely these people want their own families protected. You always go back to self-interest whenever analyzing the opposition. Why is that?

SCHEUER: I believe, sir, our media elites, and sadly our governing elites in both parties, really have not portrayed to the American people the danger posed by the Islamic extremists we're fighting, the strength of that threat, and the smartness of our enemy.

O'REILLY: Do they not understand it?

SCHEUER: Well I hate to think that anybody is less smart than myself. I think there's a lot of smart people out there, a lot of people who are smarter than myself. But we're very constricted by political correctness in this country, and it's hard to say that Islam is not a religion of peace if it feels cornered.

O'REILLY: What was the first thing that you thought when you read that story in the New York Times or excerpts in the Washington Post, the story about the banking transfer?

SCHEUER: I thought that it was just another impediment in terms of the clandestine services of the United States being able to defend America. And it really didn't contribute to any kind of debate about foreign policy or strategy.

O'REILLY: Last question. Would you prosecute vigorously, look for these leakers?

SCHEUER: I think I would not, sir. I think there is more to lose in a court of law for the clandestine ability of the United States than there is to gain.

O'REILLY: All right Mr Scheuer, always a no-spin guy. We appreciate you coming on and talking to us.

SCHEUER: Thank you.

posted: Tue - June 27, 2006 at 09:54 PM       j$p  send