Donald Trump

Defending Norms Again -- Stop Leaking

By Paul Rosenzweig
Monday, July 17, 2017, 10:54 AM

The Washington Post has yet another great informative story -- this time about the suspicion that the UAE is behind a hack of Qatar and that the hack was, itself, part of a plan to stir up the Gulf. In other words, the suggestion is that UAE hacked into Qatar, planted a false story, and then used the false story as a causus belli for the blockade of Qatar. I have no idea if this is true -- but the story is sourced to "U.S. intelligence officials" so presumably the reporters got it from someone inside the IC (and given that it looks like SIGINT, probably from the NSA).

This really has to stop. Just stop. The deviancy of the Trump Administration has caused all sorts of problems, but one of the gravest is the long-lasting damage it appears to be doing to the traditions, no ... the obligations, of secrecy within the IC. Initially, you could almost understand the IC's actions -- they had made a public unclassified claim that Russia attempted to influence the election; the President had disparaged them and doubted their conclusion; and so they had allowed the leak of some supporting classified material to butress their allegation and re-establish their accuracy/reputation.

But once you start down that road, it becomes too easy. Newly empowered with the ability to influence the news, someone in the IC (or more than a single someone) now sees leaks as a way of more broadly influencing policy and/or embarassing the President. The President deserves all the embarassment he can get (his response to the Qatar crisis is incoherent) but this is not the way to achieve the right policy result.

I will say it again -- one does not defend norms against transgression by violating other norms.