Spy vs. Spy

Last night, my colleague Kim discussed ABC’s Brian Ross and his report of a covert CIA operation aimed at destabilizing the Iranian government. She was outraged at its leaking, and justifiably so. I would be, too, but I’m a bit more jaded and cynical than she is.

First up, I think that the possibility that this was a deliberate leak by the Bush administration is worth considering. It’s precisely the sort of thing that we should want to encourage; behind-the-scenes pressures on the Iranian government. As several commenters have noted, the Iranian government has had a rather severe run of bad luck lately. Sometimes it’s a good thing to make one’s opponents nervous, even paranoid.

Secondly, let’s be honest about one thing — the threshold for “treason” has been lowered through the floor. Two years ago the New York Times exposed a series of CIA front companies and operations involved in transporting suspected terrorists around the globe, complete with names and photos, in what has to be one of the clearest-cut cases of treason I’ve ever seen in the media, and no charges were ever filed in that case.

But then my cynic reconsiders matters. This would involve far more competency in the Bush administration in managing the leak, and integrity at the CIA in not blowing the move, than we have seen before.

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