Don't Believe Lindsey Graham's Phony Leak Outrage

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Senator Lindsey Graham would like you to believe he's outraged about a recent spate of high level leaks because they jeopardize our national security. Turns out, that's not really his primary concern.

For weeks, the South Carolina Republican has been issuing press releases and booking cable news appearances to demand a special prosector investigate the White House for allegedly leaking classified national security intelligence. Today, he ticked off every issue he wants investigated to Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin, a list that includes leaks about CIA cyber weapons, President Obama's "kill list," a secret drone base in Pakistan and U.S.-Taliban prisoner swap negotiations. But there was something very odd about two of the leak cases he listed: It's already known who leaked them. As Rogin explains:

[I] pointed out that two of those leaks were disclosed publicly by [Sen. Dianne] Feinstein herself. She disclosed the existence of the Pakistan drone base in an open hearing in 2009 and disclosed the details of the Taliban negotiations in a March interview with The Cable.

VoilàFree of charge, Foreign Policy's humble reporter was able to solve one of the "crimes" Graham had been begging a professionally-trained special prosecutor to solve on taxpayers' dime for weeks. So did Graham quickly redirect his pent-up rage at his Upper Chamber colleague upon learning of her grave transgression? Turns out: No.

"My beef is not with Senator Feinstein. My beef is with a system that's failing," Graham said. "I think that this failure is politically motivated. The leaks have tried to create a political advantage for this president. Nothing Senator Feinstein has done or said has been in that mode."

He continued digging. "This is part of a plan to compromise our programs for political purposes, in my view. That's the allegation I'm making." 

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Is that really the allegation he's making? In a press release issued by his office earlier today, Graham describes a different rationale for pursuing this leak investigation. "They reveal details of some of our Nation's most highly classified and sensitive military and intelligence matters, thereby risking our national security, as well as the lives of American citizens and our allies," he wrote. "If there were ever a case requiring an outside special counsel with bipartisan acceptance and widespread public trust, this is it."

So which is it, Sen. Graham? Are these leaks outrageous because they jeopardize American lives or because they make President Obama look good? The senator apparently felt that Feinstein's leaks fit into one of these categories or he wouldn't have requested an investigation into them. After finding out that she's the one who leaked the stories, why no outrage?

In an additional remark to Rogin, Graham says Feinstein's leaks "may have been accidental," an excuse that is somehow supposed to free her from any scrutiny. (Wouldn't you like investigators to find out if the leak was accidental? Would the Obama administration get a pass if they simply said the leaks were accidental?) In any event, Graham appears to have revealed his true colors on this one. The investigation isn't so much about finding the culprits, it's about making the Obama administration look bad. Anything else is a distraction.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.