- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Above the law?

“What does it say about American journalism that it gives its most prestigious prizes to reporters who acquire and reveal illicitly leaked U.S. secrets, when the result is to damage the U.S. government in a time of war?” syndicated columnist Patrick J. Buchanan writes.

“Both the [New York] Times and [The Washington] Post got their Pulitzers for fencing secrets of the U.S. government, criminally leaked by disloyal public servants they continue to protect,” Mr. Buchanan noted.

“Query: If [CIA leaker Mary] McCarthy deserves firing, disgrace and possibly prison for what she did, does The Post deserve congratulations for collaborating with and covering up her infidelity, deceit and possible criminality?

“Are journalists above the law? Are they entitled to publish secrets, the leaking of which can put their sources in jail for imperiling the national security? What kind of business has journalism become in 2006?”

Escaping justice

“A bill set to go to the floor in the House [today] could make it easier for the nation’s intelligence agencies to punish leakers without relying on the criminal justice system to prosecute them,” Byron York writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

“The Intelligence Authorization Act of 2007, a far-reaching measure that outlines the intelligence community’s top priorities, contains a section ordering the director of national intelligence to study ‘the feasibility of revoking the pensions of personnel in the intelligence community who commit unauthorized disclosures of classified information.’

“Although the bill was drafted long before the CIA’s dismissal of analyst Mary McCarthy, lawmakers say the McCarthy case adds urgency to the issue of punishing leakers. Specifically, some members of Congress are concerned that, even if McCarthy is guilty of leaking classified information, the government will have no effective way to punish her,” Mr. York said.

“Last week, the CIA fired an officer — identified by others as McCarthy — who had, according to a CIA statement, admitted to ‘unauthorized discussions with the media in which the officer knowingly and willfully shared classified intelligence, including operational information.’ McCarthy denies the allegation; her lawyer, Ty Cobb, tells National Review Online flatly … ‘She did not leak any classified information.’

“The obvious way for the government to pursue the case would be for the Justice Department to prosecute. But it is not clear whether the department, which has spent [2[1/2]] years probing the leak of CIA employee Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity, will undertake such an investigation. CIA officials notified the Department of the McCarthy situation back in January, but there is speculation that, since the firing of McCarthy rested in large part on her failure of a CIA-administered polygraph test — evidence that would not be admissible in court — the Justice Department might ultimately decide not to take action against her.

“The other way in which McCarthy, a longtime government employee, might be punished would be for her pension to be revoked. But it appears that will not happen either, at least in the absence of any criminal prosecution.”

Bashing big oil

“Few things are less becoming in a political party than desperation, as Republicans are now demonstrating as they panic over rising oil and gas prices. If blaming private industry for Congress’ own energy mistakes is the best the GOP can do, no wonder its voters may sit out the November election,” the Wall Street Journal says in an editorial.

“Oil prices hit $75 a barrel last week, while gas has reached a national average of about $2.85 a gallon. The Republican response has been to put on Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi fright wigs and shout about corporate greed and market manipulation. House Speaker Denny Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist fired off a letter to President Bush [Monday] demanding the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department investigate ‘price fixing’ and ‘gouging.’ Sen. Arlen Specter wants to go further and impose stricter ‘antitrust’ laws for oil companies, as well as a ‘windfall profits’ tax. Mr. Hastert also delighted the class warriors in the press corps by lambasting recently retired Exxon CEO Lee Raymond’s pay [as] ‘unconscionable,’ ” the newspaper said.

“There’s been unconscionable behavior all right, most of it on Capitol Hill. A decent portion of the latest run-up in gas prices — and the entire cause of recent spot shortages — is the direct result of the energy bill Congress passed last summer. That self-serving legislation handed Congress’ friends in the ethanol lobby a mandate that forces drivers to use 7.5 billion gallons annually of that oxygenate by 2012.

“At the same time, Congress refused to provide liability protection to the makers of MTBE, a rival oxygenate getting hit with lawsuits. So MTBE makers are leaving the market in a rush, while overstretched ethanol producers (despite their promises) are in no way equipped to compensate for the loss of MTBE in the fuel supply. Ethanol is also difficult to ship and store outside of the Midwest, which is causing supply headaches and spot gas shortages along the East Coast and Texas.

“These columns warned Republicans this would happen. As recently as last year, ethanol was selling for $1.45 a gallon. By December it had reached $2 and is now going for $2.77. So refiners are now having to buy both oil and ethanol at sky-high prices. In short, the only market manipulation has been by politicians.”

Historic clash

Historic preservationists are clashing with a civil rights group and at least one congressional budget hawk over plans to spend millions of dollars to restore the former home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, USA Today reports at its Web site (www.usatoday.com).

Hurricane Katrina caused an estimated $25 million in damage to the house, called Beauvoir. It was built in the 1850s and served as Davis’ retirement home after the Civil War.

At the behest of the National Trust and other historic preservation organizations, Sen. Thad Cochran, Mississippi Republican and Appropriations Committee chairman, has included $80 million to restore storm-battered historic property in a $27 billion emergency hurricane package the Senate is scheduled to debate this week.

“These funds are important to ensure the full economic and cultural recovery of the coast,” said Jenny Manley, Mr. Cochran’s press secretary.

Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, disagrees, “We adamantly oppose the restoration of Beauvoir. It is one of the most divisive symbols in this state and in this state’s history.”

The money to restore historic places may be challenged by Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican.

“He would be concerned about this not being a true emergency,” said John Hart, Mr. Coburn’s press secretary. “When people are homeless, that should be the first priority.”

Beauvoir officials also are seeking private money for the rebuilding effort.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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