ABC News is jumping to the defense of Mary McCarthy by employing an age-old excuse: everybody does it.
The firing this week of a veteran CIA analyst for disclosing confidential information is just the latest reminder that leaking government secrets can be a dangerous and risky game.
After all, leaking has been around as long as the nation itself.
In 1794, George Washington was outraged when Alexander Hamilton released details of a treaty negotiation.
Benjamin Franklin lost his job as postmaster after he leaked private letters to reveal political leanings of colonial leaders -- letters that helped fan the flames of the Revolution.
"Leaks have been around since Jefferson was complaining about newspapers and what they were doing to him," said Howard Kurtz, media critic for The Washington Post. "The difference now is you have so many more media outlets and a 24-hour digital world [so] that the leak can instantly go around the globe. You don't have to wait for the newspaper to be delivered on horseback."
Just because Benjamin Franklin leaked private letters of colonial leaders doesn't mean it's ok for Mary McCarthy to leak classified documents pertinent to our national security. Sheesh, why do I feel like I'm talking to a teenager?
And the article continues:
Not that there was any shortage of horseback riding leakers in the old days. In fact, you might say it was the "midnight ride" of Paul Revere and his unauthorized disclosure of British troop movements back in 1775 that led to the birth of our nation.."
What a lousy defense. Comparing Mary McCarthy's leaking to the actions of Paul Revere is not only inaccurate - it's manipulative by playing to Americans' patriotism to garner sympathy for McCarthy as if she were some kind of American hero.
A reader makes a great point, one that I missed: why wasn't Benedict Arnold used as an example? He is, after all, a more accurate example, but accuracy isn't what the author intended. The article is attempting to paint McCarthy's leaking as no big deal, that even the most important and revered of our founders did it. Using Benedict Arnold, whose name alone still connotes evil and deception to this day, would have turned readers against McCarthy.
Here's how the article ends:
Back in Washington, the Bush White House is having problems with leaking, just like its predecessors. But as dangerous as leaking is, a world without leaks might just pose some dangers of its own.
"Without some leaks on some issues from some well-placed sources, a lot of important stories would never get out," [Howard] Kurtz said.
The folks of the MSM are convinced the world revolves around them, that all other activity, business or government, is subjugated to their need to "get the story out." As far as they are concerned, not even national security is as important.
Update: Mary Katharine Ham of Hugh Hewitt has a round up.