Friday, November 03, 2006
As Hunter detailed in his excellent post below, the right-wing blogos and their ideological counterparts in Congress led the charge to declassify tons of pre-war documents of the Iraqi government. As we know now, the posting of these documents has resulted in a grave security breach, as the administration publicly released information on how to build an atom bomb.
That the United States government was stupid enough to release this diarrhea of documents without the proper national security review is a scandal in and of itself. But the fact that these fools rushed in for political gain makes this security breach that much more outrageous.
For those that didn't follow the initial document dump, the chain of events goes something like this. After toppling Saddam Hussein's government, the U.S. government came into possession of an extraordinary amount of documents, but by the end of 2005, the bulk of these documents were not translated. Peter Hoekstra, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, blamed the backlog on the fact that the intelligence community didn't have enough Arabic translators (and of course, Hoekstra would never propose hiring back all of the translators who were fired because they were gay). His bright idea? To declassify the docs and place them online so that "academics, journalists, bloggers and other interested individuals could have access and help translate them."
It's not as if there was a rush to translate these documents. The urgency argued by Hoekstra and the right-wing blogs was borne not out of a national security need, but out of a political need. You see, as support for the war contineud its steady decline, and as the president's poll numbers followed suit, the wars most unapologetic supporters were in desperate need of something--anything--that could be spun into justifying the debacle Americans were seeing on the nightly news.
Thus, we had Hoekstra pushing for the release of this information so that right-wing bloggers--an "army of translators"--could scour the documents and find some scrap of paper that proved Osama bin Laden once operated out of some condo in Baghdad, and that yes, Iraq and 9/11 were thus connected and the biggest FUBAR in American history could thus be excused on those grounds. That was the idea, at least.
The push to throw these documents to the dogs was part of a larger effort to counter waning support for the war. Back in March, Stephen Hayes, senior writer at the Weekly Standard, was one of the most vocal cheerleaders for the documents' release. He recounted how the president was intent on releasing the documents, even over Negroponte's protests. He described a February 16th conference call between the president, the vice-president, Indiana Republican Mike Pence, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, and U.S. Ambassador to IRaq Zalmay Khalilzad (via telephone).
The conference call began with Pence commenting on all the favorable news coverage the release of certain pre-Saddam audio tapes had garnered ("Mr. President, the war had its best night on the network news since the war ended.") Hayes then described how the president wanted more pre-war information released:
[President Bush] turned to Hadley and asked for an update. Hadley explained that John Negroponte, Bush's Director of National Intelligence, "owns the documents" and that DNI lawyers were deciding how they might be handled.
Bush extended his arms in exasperation and worried aloud that people who see the documents in 10 years will wonder why they weren't released sooner. "If I knew then what I know now," Bush said in the voice of a war skeptic, "I would have been more supportive of the war."
Bush told Hadley to expedite the release of the Iraq documents. "This stuff ought to be out. Put this stuff out." The president would reiterate this point before the meeting adjourned. And as the briefing ended, he approached Pence, poked a finger in the congressman's chest, and thanked him for raising the issue. When Pence began to restate his view that the documents should be released, Bush put his hand up, as if to say, "I hear you. It will be taken care of."
The issue was indeed taken care of, and the president eventually released the documents, and the right-wing pounced, and they found nothing.
Whether terrorists and rogue nations also found nothing remains to be seen.
We may never know whether malicious minds accessed the atom bomb information before the site was pulled, or whether other documents posted in haste have also endangered our national security.
What we do know is this: the push to release these documents was political, aimed at bolstering the egos of those who championed this war. They wanted this stuff out, and they wanted out it out now. Through rushed and wrong action, they wanted to be proved right.
And the result? Why, it's the same result borne out of every poorly planned, mismanaged, half-assed action taken by our government for the benefit of the Republican Party: the American people got screwed, and are less safe as a result.
The Republican Party led the reckless charge to "put this stuff out." Now it's time to put them out of office on November 7th.