- The Washington Times - Friday, October 12, 2001

In a city where information is firepower, the presidential order that came down last Friday to limit sensitive congressional war briefings to the four congressional leaders and the intelligence committee chairmen and vice chairmen was for Congress (particularly those members who are neither leaders nor intelligence committee chairmen and vice chairmen) a call to arms or, rather, to phones and cameras and wherever else outrage might be vented and aired, preferably during prime time.

Of course, it's not just sweeping presidential orders that send some of these same members to phones and cameras and wherever else outrage might be vented and aired, preferably during prime time. As Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican, told this newspaper's Dave Boyer, "We stand to get injured if we somehow get between the TV cameras and certain members of Congress."

No names, please. But the fact is that many of our honorable members talk too much. While that is a boon for a peacetime press (and do feel free to resume chatter after victory), the stakes are quite different just now. Mr. Bush, having become quickly accustomed to shouldering the unique burden of ordering young Americans into battle, understands this. In an effort to stop classified information from leaking its way into the press from the rushing founts of Capitol Hill, the president decided to dry up the flow of information at the source. "I intend to protect our troops," the president said. "It is unacceptable behavior to leak classified information when we have troops at risk." Sounds not only good, but also responsible to us. As House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas put it, "If I don't need to know, don't tell me."

Still, there was much sturm und drang on the Hill about "advise and consent," "right to know" and "the people." Consequently or maybe it was all part of a plan Mr. Bush softened his edict to provide for briefing all members of the armed services and foreign relations committees. He also promised to distinguish between closely held operational security matters and, as Ari Fleischer put it, "oversight, overview information that Congress needs to do its job."

That job as well as the media's has changed for the duration. Information is still firepower, of course, but it is now incumbent on those who hold it to make sure it isn't used against us. "The president has made his point," Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi said. "We all are going to be more careful." Enough said.

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