Intelligence officials: NSA leak has undermined ability to fight terrorism

For those who have asked “how could the ‘whistleblowing’ of the NSA surveillance have undermined the war on terror considering terrorists knew they were being wiretapped anyway?” here’s your answer:

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. intelligence officials told Congress on Thursday that disclosure of once-classified projects like President Bush’s no-warrant eavesdropping program have undermined their work.

“The damage has been very severe to our capabilities to carry out our mission,” CIA Director Porter Goss told the Senate Intelligence Committee, citing disclosures about a variety of CIA programs that he suggested may have been compromised.

Goss said a federal grand jury should be empaneled to determine “who is leaking this information.”

But Democratic members of the panel accused the Bush administration of wanting to have it both ways.

“The president has not only confirmed the existence of the program, he has spoken at length about it repeatedly,” while keeping Congress in the dark, said Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the panel’s senior Democrat.

Rockefeller suggested that such “leaks” most likely “came from the executive branch” of the government.

What a clueless [insert un-ladylike word here] (not to mention hypocrite)! The President has been on the offensive to the point of getting angry about the fact that this information was leaked to the public, yet Senator Rockefeller can say with a straight face that it likely came from the executive branch? I mean, for crying out loud, the acting deputy Attorney General didn’t even know about it:

As an indication of how closely the administration held the NSA program, Paul McNulty, the acting deputy attorney general since October, said Thursday he learned of it only when he read about it in The New York Times.

Testifying at his Senate confirmation hearing, McNulty said he does not know whether information gathered through the warrantless surveillance has been used in prosecutions in the Alexandria, Va.-based federal judicial district where he has been the chief federal prosecutor since Sept. 2001.

An example of how this has affected our ability to fight terrorism?

Two defendants in terrorism cases in Virginia have asked a federal judge to determine whether any evidence against them resulted from NSA eavesdropping.

More on Goss’ comments:

Goss complained that leaks to the news media about classified CIA programs – such as reported CIA secret prisons abroad – had damaged his own agency’s work.

“I use the words ‘very severe’ intentionally. And I think the evidence will show that,” he said.

Goss cited a “disruption to our plans, things that we have under way.” Some CIA sources and “assets” had been rendered “no longer viable or usable, or less effective by a large degree,” he said.

The revelations have also made intelligence agencies in other countries mistrustful of their U.S. counterparts, Goss said.

“I’m stunned to the quick when I get questions from my professional counterparts saying, ‘Mr. Goss, can’t you Americans keep a secret?”

Goss, when pressed, said he was speaking of programs run by the CIA, and would let NSA officials speak for themselves.

Gen. Michael Hayden, the principal deputy director of national intelligence and a former NSA director, said it was hard to characterize any damage done to his agency in an open session.

But, he said, “Some people claim that somehow or another our capabilities are immune to this kind of information going out into the public domain.”

“And, I can tell you, in a broad sense, that is certainly not true.”

Will it finally sink into the heads of those who claimed throughout Plamegate that they were so ‘concerned’ about how Valerie Plame’s ‘outing’ would do irreparable ‘harm’ to intelligence operations – yet didn’t and don’t see how this particular leak could (and obviously has) had a true negative impact on how we fight terror – now get just how serious THIS very real leak is?

I won’t hold my breath. Because I know in the end that this has never been about national security to most (certainly not all, but many) of the very vocal critics. It’s been about getting Bush, no matter the cost. National security be damned.

(Hat tip: Blogs for Bush)

Also blogging about this: Pardon My English

Sidenote: If my post at the bottom (last few sentences of the main body) looks a bit different than it did a few minutes ago, it’s because I had to rewrite it. I don’t know what’s going on but I’ve had some strange things happen with the blog tonight – lost a partial post and had to recreate it (this one) and my edits were not taking for a few minutes. I’ve emailed my host to find out what the deal is.

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