The House Intelligence Committee has released the “Scope of Investigation” for its inquiry into the alleged Russian active measures campaign targeting the 2016 U.S. election. One item on the agenda is, “What possible leaks of classified information took place related to the Intelligence Community Assessment of these matters?” That is an easy one.
One of the answers lies with Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, who “broke” the story regarding illegal surveillance of Trump national security adviser Michael T. Flynn. Ignatius received illegal leaks of classified communications involving Flynn and Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian Ambassador to the United States. The claim we see so often in the media that Flynn was too cozy with Russia is a smokescreen. The purpose of the leaks, which likely came from the CIA and perhaps other agencies, was to stop Flynn before he could take action to reform the U.S. intelligence community. That’s obvious when you consider that Ignatius is an admitted mouthpiece for the CIA and has a reputation for doing what the agency demands of him.
The owner of the paper he works for, Jeff Bezos, does business with the CIA.
Since it’s doubtful that Ignatius will volunteer his testimony and reveal his sources, a subpoena will be necessary. He can then be prosecuted if, as expected, he conceals the names of those who used him as a conduit for illegal leaks of classified information. It is clear that he has inside information about the “alternative government,” as attorney Larry Klayman calls this network of secret operatives, or the “Deep State,” as others call it. These are the “anonymous sources” who manipulate the press, reveal national security information, and threaten the foundations of our constitutional republic. They are the real traitors, not the officials who had innocent conversations with Russians.
Does House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) have the guts to get to the bottom of this subversion of our democratic system? Like President Trump, he says he is concerned about illegal leaks. It’s time for him to take action. Otherwise, the illegal leakers will keep picking off our elected officials and those they appoint, using secret information they twist and distort for partisan political purposes.
Gregg Jarrett, a Fox News anchor and former defense attorney, should understand this. But he has weighed in on this topic and seems to conclude that Ignatius is above the law.
He says, “Whoever conveyed the information contained therein to The Washington Post committed a felony. The Post reporter, David Ignatius, who published the classified material may also be prosecuted, but he should not be” (emphasis added).
Here’s where Jarrett makes a mistake that plays into the hands of an irresponsible press.
Jarrett says, “The law draws little distinction between the leakers and the recipient who publishes the classified information. Assuming the leakers will not reveal themselves, the government may feel it has no choice but to prosecute the only person whose name is known. That is, the reporter.” However, he goes on, “This would be a mistake. While the statute itself clearly criminalizes the publishing of classified material, the First Amendment should and must render that portion of the law unconstitutional as it applies to a journalist.”
That’s his opinion. The appropriate statute, 18 U.S. Code Chapter 37, section 798, on the “Disclosure of classified information,” authorizes prosecution of those who leak, and those who publish the leaks. The relevant sections “do not exempt any class of professionals, including reporters, from their reach,” as one Justice Department official has testified.
Jarrett argues for a press exception, saying, “The Framers well knew that a free press is a cherished cornerstone in any democracy. It is the only real way to hold government officials accountable for their actions.”
In this case, however, Ignatius may stand in the way of holding the government accountable because he is protecting the identities of illegal leakers.
Jarrett himself notes the highly classified nature of the information that was disclosed. “The collection of signals transmitted from communications systems as ‘signals intelligence’ is known by the acronym SIGINT,” he points out. “The National Security Agency collects and analyzes the information. But any of the 16 other agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community may have gained access to the Flynn-Kislyak conversations. Many of them likely did, given Ignatius’s reference to ‘multiple agencies’ as his sources.”
Rather than exercise his First Amendment rights, Ignatius may be protecting a conspiracy of government officials whose motive is to destroy those members of the Trump administration who they oppose. By protecting these people, Ignatius is not holding government accountable; he is protecting a criminal enterprise.
The conservative journalist Kenneth R. Timmerman has it exactly right. He says, “The rogue weasels have struck. Terrified that Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn would tear them out root and branch, they connived and colluded, anonymously of course, to leak highly-sensitive intelligence information to destroy Flynn before he could destroy them.”
He is referring to how Flynn, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, had plans to reform the U.S. intelligence community and purge traitors from the intelligence community.
Timmerman authored Shadow Warriors: The Untold Story of Traitors, Saboteurs, and the Party of Surrender, which documented the existence of a network of current and former government officials, many from the CIA, working to undermine U.S. foreign policy and benefit America’s enemies.
In the Flynn case, he figures the leakers were senior career officials who could be counted on to leak sensitive information that would embarrass or confuse President Trump. His column, published on February 14, concluded, “It’s time for the Attorney General to launch a thorough investigation to unmask the leakers, before the damage gets worse.”
It did get worse, with another leak targeting Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Once again, The Washington Post was the chosen vessel for the leakers.
In his column about the war on the Trump administration from within the intelligence community and the Justice Department, Timmerman wrote, “When domestic enemies rear their head and seek to undermine the president and his lawful orders, that’s called sedition.”
If these “domestic enemies” are free to use members of the media for their own purposes, then democracy has become a terrible joke. Seditious or espionage activities have to be exposed.
As the House Intelligence Committee moves forward, members should consider the relevance of another statute, 18 U.S. Code Chapter 115. It deals with “Treason, Sedition, and Subversive Activities.”
The First Amendment is not a license to subvert the government elected by the people. Members of the press must be held accountable for their crimes.
The American people are counting on Rep. Nunes to take proper action. The fate of the Trump administration may depend on whether he does his job, and does it quickly.
- Call his office at 202-225-4121. Tell him we know that Ignatius was the admitted recipient of these illegal leaks and that he should be held accountable. There is no time to waste.
Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism and can be contacted at [email protected].