Yet Another Administration Awash in Leaks

Article excerpt

The leak is about as old as the secret. People who control secrets hate leaks, except when they create them. That is why it is said that the ship of state is the only kind of ship that leaks from the top.

Unplanned leaks tend to enrage those who control secrets because they undermine their sense of control. President Reagan once complained that he was "up to my keister" in leaks. President Nixon was tempted into sponsoring a self-destructive break-in on a psychiatrist's office out of rage against Daniel Ellsberg's leak of the Pentagon Papers.

Leaks from law-enforcement agencies can be quite harmful. A leak of plans of ATF federal agents to enter the Branch Davidian compound in Waco in 1993 alerted David Koresh and resulted in the death of four of the agents. The leak that Richard Jewell was a suspect - innocent, as it turned out - in the Atlanta Olympics bombing damaged his reputation and led to libel suits. The leak to CBS of FBI plans to raid the Unabomber's shack in Montana could have alerted him to escape if CBS had not acceded to an urgent FBI request to delay breaking the story. A special subsection of leaks is the so-called grand jury leak - so-called because it usually does not come from the grand jury itself. This concerns investigative material in unevaluated form that may or may not lead to an indictment. A leak of grand jury information may hinder an investigation, and it may damage an innocent person. …


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