Sen. Pat Roberts Double Standard on Intel Leaks

Today, Senate Coverup Committee chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) attacked the media for writing about the SWIFT bank records tracking program, and he called for a “formal damage assessment” to be done by Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte. (Dan Froomkin today explained how the “existence of SWIFT itself has not exactly been a secret.”)

Roberts began his attack on the media yesterday:

If another attack occurs because of this information going out…the people who have written these stories and the people who have made their decisions should look in the mirror.

But Roberts is the one who needs to “look in the mirror” about the effects leaks have on national security. The National Journal’s Murray Waas reported in April that during the start of the Iraq war, Roberts disclosed sensitive intelligence in a speech he delivered (ironically enough) to the National Newspaper Association:

[T]hree years ago on the eve of the invasion of Iraq, Roberts himself was involved in disclosing sensitive intelligence information that, according to four former senior intelligence officers, impaired efforts to capture Saddam Hussein and potentially threatened the lives of Iraqis who were spying for the United States.

On March 20, 2003, at the onset of military hostilities between U.S. and Iraqi forces, Roberts said in a speech to the National Newspaper Association that he had “been in touch with our intelligence community” and that the CIA had informed President Bush and the National Security Council “of intelligence information from what we call human intelligence that indicated the location of Saddam Hussein and his leadership in a bunker in the suburbs of Baghdad.”

The former intelligence officials said in interviews that Roberts was never held accountable for his comments, which bore directly on the issue of intelligence-gathering sources and methods, and revealed that Iraqis close to Hussein were probably talking to the United States.

As former intelligence officials told Waas, the incident showed “how rank and file intelligence professionals now have much to fear from legitimate and even inadvertent contacts with journalists, while senior executive branch officials and members of Congress are almost never held accountable when they seriously breach national security through leaks of information.”