Another day, another leak. It seems our society sprouts leaks faster than a hybrid Dutch Boy/bionic octopus could plug them. They come from all sides and each is controversial in its own way. Valerie Plame gets outed. Sherron Watkins tattles on Enron. CIA officers freelance leaks to dampen poor decisions. White House rats on CIA folks for revenge and so on.
This spurting swirl of leaks is full of classic moral questions. When’s a leak justified? Does it matter if the leak breaks a law? What do we do when we find a leaker? Does ultimately being correct justify a lenient punishment? I’m here to tell you that even though I’m omnipotent, I’ m not sure what the answer is. However, I do know that anyone who sees this as a black and white, merely academic exercise is driving around with the lights off and the blinders on.
The recent CIA leak is a case in point.
The Bushies have repeatedly tried to make the CIA the culprit for bad decisions, and in some cases they may’ve been right, in others dead wrong. It’s a high-pressure pickle no one wants, especially when your job keeps the nation safe from all manner of global bad guys. You’re supposed to be on the same team, but the tension between you is like having Terrel Owens in the locker room.
Imagine yourself in the CIA. You’ve given your life to a job you justifiably consider vital and important. You do your best to give the decision-makers the right answers when they ask for them. However, you get a little miffed when the Decider-in-Chief decides he hankers for a piece of Iraqi Cherry Pie. He hand picks every damn cherry on the tree, but you try to stop him for his own good. First, you try the polite route, “Boss, we know you think there are nukes in there, but we’re not so sure. We really think you should hold off on the whole war thing until we figure that out.”
To which the boss answers, “Gimme a piece o’ that cherry pie. I gots tah have my piece o’ that cherry pie.”
You dutifully give him his pie and go back to looking at your satellite photos. But, you know more about what’s going on than some addled-brained brush-clearer from Texas. Each time a similar instance comes up, you have the same conversation, “Boss, blah, bla, blah. You should hold off.”
And, like a Presidential diabetic on a suger high, he says, “Pie! Gotta have me some of that pie. Gimme some more pie because I’m the decider around here. Hmm, cherry cider sounds good. Gimme some of that too!”
That exchange doesn’t have to happen too many times before you get pissed. You dwell on the damage that shit-for-brains is doing to the nation’s international standing and safety. You think about the damage to your ego and credibility because you know when things explode – and have no mistake, they will – the craven bastard will make you walk the plank for his error.
So you decide that a well-placed leak with one of those nice reporters down the hall would teach the evil bastard a lesson. You begin to think, “Hey. Who’s the intelligence expert here – him or me? I have the maps and secret sources, and tiny electronic devices, and he’s got no intelligence at all – and I don’t mean the spy-fed variety? “
So you accept that lunch date with the reporter, have a nice nosh, and drop some cleverly chosen information that won’t actually hurt anyone. It’ll just embarrass the boob so maybe next time he listens to you. What could be the harm? The guy’s evil, right?
But who appointed the pissed off spygal as political counterweight? Isn’t she breaking the law? What happens if she’s wrong? What happens if someone does get hurt, albeight unintentionally? What if the sock was on the other foot, like Scooter’s little lunch on Valerie Plame’s neck?
I’d be the first to admit that many of our nation’s greatest shitbirds have been done in by a well-placed leaker. The Enron boys would still look like the smartest guys in the room if Ms. Watkins hadn’t blow the whistle. And if Deep Throat hadn’t ratted Nixon out, Washington National airport might be named after Dick instead of Dutch.
Don’t get me wrong, but I’d be overjoyed if some young thing tattled on Dub for getting blowjobs in the Oval Office. I think he’s the scourge of the Earth and deserves to be trampled in much the same way he has trampled others. Ultimately, I do believe in karma.
But, I wouldn’t feel good about it.
I wouldn’t feel good, because I’d be a hypocrite. I’d be laughing as they rode Dub out of town on a rail, but depending on the circumstances, I might also be praising someone who broke the law. I’d be thinking in the back of my mind, “Ya know. I didn’t much like that when they did it to Bill. Who am I to be laughing now?”
And the answer would be, I shouldn’t laugh. Someone broke the law and sullied the reputation of an important office. I’m not so sure looking the other way for that indiscretion is either right or damaging.
And that’s not something I’m sure any of us will ever really ever know.