The Six Worst Intelligence Leaks Since 9/11

Mitt Romney spent much of his speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention last week blasting President Obama for leaks that no one except the President’s political opponents have connected to the White House. The next day, Romney promptly revealed a secret conversation he had with the Australian Prime Minister.

Some leaks cast light on secret activities that need light cast on them—such as the leaks that revealed the wide-scale spying on American citizens the NSA was engaged in post 9/11. Other leaks make a false case for war or actually put America’s armed forces and our allies in danger.

Here are the six examples of the worst leaks since 9/11.

Image by brittanylynae via Flickr.

1. Multiple leaks about weapons of mass destruction leading up to the Iraq War.

Faced with no hard evidence that connected Iraq to 9/11, the Bush Administration and those loyal to it relied on speculation and unattributed leaks to make a case in the press. Stories like “U.S. Suspects Al Qaeda Got Nerve Agent From Iraqis; Analysts: Chemical May Be VX, And Was Smuggled Via Turkey,” which appeared in the Washington Post on December 12, 2002, quoted members of the Bush Administration who were speaking without “permission.” Notably, no one was fired for the leaks. This is likely because Vice President Cheney was still making the case that Iraq was connected to Al Qaeda on “Meet the Press” almost a year later.

Image via The U.S. Army on Flickr

2. Richard Clarke briefing leaked

Terrorism expert Richard A. Clarke was one of the few members of the Clinton Administration who continued serving in the Bush Administration. And when he became the only member of Bush’s team to publicly apologize for 9/11, he became an incredibly potent critic of Bush’s anti-terror policies. To neutralize Clarke in the run up to the 2004 elections, the Bush Administration leaked an off-the-record briefing in which Clarke praises the Administration’s terror record. Unfortunately, Clarke’s memo in which he “urgently” called for a comprehensive anti-terror strategy in late January of 2001 was ignored and not released until 2006.

3. Memo gate

It’s an event that’s almost slipped into the sinkhole of history. One of Orrin Hatch’s staffers was accused of improperly accessing files from Democratic computers on Capitol Hill. The information from the stolen memos was promptly leaked to the Washington Times and The Wall Street Journal. Hatch had learned a lesson from history: the cover-up is worse than the crime. The Senator from Utah suspended the staffer and cooperated with the investigation. This made him a target of conservatives in 2006 but he survives to this day.

4. Bush-approved leak about the “Surge”

In Dick Cheney’s memoir, he admits that President Bush himself approved a leak. Facing an electoral drubbing after the 2006, Bush decided to double down in Iraq with a strategy called the “Surge.” When news of the then still secret “Surge” appeared in the Washington Post, Cheney went to the President to complain. Cheney later learned that President Bush himself had instructed National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley to leak the news.


How do you solve a problem like Pete Hoekstra? This former senior member of the House Intelligence Committee loves to grandstand about leaks. Yet he leaked his own secret trip to Iraq via Twitter. Some say he’s the male Michele Bachmann (who may or may not have leaked secret information about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons during a Republican Presidential Debate.) But there’s no doubt it’s hard to take Hoekstra seriously when it comes to state secrets. As you see above, Rachel Maddow certainly can’t.

6. The Plame Affair

It may be the most heinous leak of all time. In an effort to shame Joe Wilson, a public critic of the Iraq War, members of the Bush Administration outed Wilson’s wife CIA agent Valerie Plame to the press, jeopardizing the safety of both Ms. Plame and her contacts around the world. This scandal resulted in only one conviction. Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff Scooter Libby was convicted on four charges including lying and obstruction of justice. President Bush commuted the sentence but, in a rare act of defiance of Dick Cheney’s wishes, refused to pardon Libby.


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