FLASHBACK TO DECEMBER, 2001: The Clinton Team’s Betrayal:

Newspaper readers have been treated in recent days to an orgy of gut-spilling by Clinton administration officials rather painfully eager to show that when they were in office they, too, exerted themselves mightily to get rid of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network.

The fact that they didn’t succeed is just the beginning of the problem. The Washington Post articles on the Clinton officials also reveal the officials’ unsavory willingness – for the sake of self-promotion – to compromise the intelligence community by betraying secret ways the community tracked bin Laden. Most of all, though, the Clinton articles are a roadmap of failure, a textbook on how not to conduct an anti-terrorist campaign.

From a reporter’s perspective, new details on how the U.S. went after bin Laden are a goldmine, and more power to the newspaper that can dig them up. The trouble is that the details are potentially harmful. Consider the Clinton-era leak that U.S. intelligence was tracking bin Laden’s telephone calls. Former CIA director James Woolsey has said the leak tipped off bin Laden and led him to stop communicating by phone. Given such consequences, ex-administration officials are duty-bound to resist the temptation to brag about U.S. capabilities.

The new leaks involve, among other things, planned Pakistani and Uzbek commando raids, sensors for caves inside Afghanistan, a person close to the Taliban leadership spying for the U.S., and possible U.S. landing sites in Afghanistan. These leaks risk tipping off future foes about U.S. methods, harming some foreigners who have cooperated with the U.S. or shaking the resolve of others who fear being exposed in the U.S. media, and ratcheting up the vigilance of U.S. foes. We may never learn whether any of these negative consequences are triggered by the Clinton officials’ efforts to cast themselves in a good light.

What’s more, the officials don’t come out looking good at all. Instead their efforts add up to a long list on what not to do in a campaign against terrorism.

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