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[infowar.de] USA Today 13.08.02: Some question motives behind leaks about Iraq
USA Today August 13, 2002
Some question motives behind leaks about Iraq
By John Diamond
WASHINGTON -- A newspaper article reports on a war plan, and Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld fumes that the source of the story should go to
jail. A Web site posts commercial satellite photos of U.S. military planes
massing at a Mideast base, and irate e-mails come in demanding, "How much
is Saddam paying you?"
As talk of a U.S. invasion aimed at toppling Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein
intensifies, some are saying news media reporting is compromising
classified military plans and putting lives in danger. Past deployments
have received advance coverage, but some administration officials complain
that an unprecedented level of detail about the possible assault is giving
valuable intelligence to the enemy. "Anyone who has a position where they
touch a war plan has an obligation to not leak it to the press or anybody
else because it kills people," Rumsfeld railed after one recent leak. "If
people start treating war plans like they're paper airplanes and they can
fly them around this building and throw them to anybody who wants them, I
think it's outrageous. . . . They ought to be in jail."
So far, no one at the Pentagon has been locked up for leaking to reporters,
sparking a different kind of speculation: the possibility that the Bush
administration is letting slip tantalizing but ultimately harmless bits of
military information to confuse the enemy or win over skeptics.
During the Persian Gulf War in 1991, U.S. commanders used news leaks and
other means to lead Iraq to believe that Marines would land on the Kuwaiti
coast. In 1944, Allied forces used inflatable dummy tanks and false radio
traffic to lure Germany into worrying about a non-existent army.
There are many reasons for the volume of information about a possible U.S.
invasion of Iraq. As a rule, the United States doesn't do Pearl
Harbor-style sneak attacks. Especially since the collapse of public support
for the Vietnam War, lawmakers have argued that the United States cannot
embark on a major military commitment without the backing of the public.
That requires a public debate and some detail about the military commitment
Virtually everyone who leaks to the press has an agenda. Sometimes an
official wants a plan scrutinized in the hopes the exposure will kill it.
Sometimes trial balloons are floated to test reaction.
Duke University political scientist Peter Feaver says leaks have actually
helped President Bush advance his Iraq agenda by getting Congress, allies
and the public used to a controversial idea.
"Bush administration officials understandably complain about the leaks, but
on balance, the leaks have helped rather than hurt," says Feaver, who
worked on President Clinton's National Security Council staff. "The leaks
have shifted the debate from 'should we go?' to 'how should we go?' "
After more than a month of intensive coverage, several Iraq scenarios have
been aired. They range from small, swift attacks involving elite commandos
swooping in on Saddam's Baghdad redoubts to a full-scale invasion involving
nearly 300,000 troops.
"The cacophony is its own form of deception," says Kenneth Allard, who
teaches national security courses at Georgetown University. He says some of
the leaks may be deliberate disinformation drawing on Winston Churchill's
assertion that in wartime, the truth is so precious it must be accompanied
by "a bodyguard of lies."
The Brookings Institution's Michael O'Hanlon disagrees. He says a report
last month in The New York Times contained information that would help
Saddam prepare for a U.S. attack. "This was actually a very serious leak,"
he says. "It was a big mistake."
Senior administration officials make no secret of their hope that Iraqi
military officers may hear the war drums beating in Washington and be
encouraged to topple Saddam on their own.
Even the prodigious volume of debate on a possible Iraq attack does not
give away the exact time, place and method of the actual operation. Germany
knew the Allies were coming in the spring of 1944, but they didn't know it
would be Normandy on June 6.
John Pike, whose GlobalSecurity.org Web site published the satellite
pictures that drew angry e-mail, says superior force and execution, not
surprise, are the keys to success. The options for attacking Iraq, he says,
are well known.
"Anyone who watches the History Channel can game this one," Pike says.
"There's only a short list of military options available to the United
States, and anyone who knows which end the bullet comes out of is going to
figure out those options pretty quickly."
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