That NIE Leak Last Month

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Where did that selective leak of the National Intelligence Estimate come from? Well, it's beginning to look like it came from a Democratic staffer on the House Intelligence Committee.

Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra last week suspended and denied classified information to the unnamed staffer. According to Republican Rep. Ray LaHood, the staffer requested a copy of the April NIE three days before part of its contents appeared in the New York Times. LaHood, by the way, is not necessarily a partisan spear chucker; he is close to Speaker Dennis Hastert, but he is one of those members often chosen to preside over divisive debates on important issues because he is perceived to be fair and impartial. As you'll recall, the NYT story quoted the NIE as saying that our military action in Iraq has stirred up more jihadist activity. It conspicuously failed to quote the NIE as saying, as it did, that our withdrawal from Iraq would stir up even more jihadist activity.

If the staffer leaked the NIE to the Times, he could be criminally charged. And, of course, it's outrageous on every level for a staffer to leak classified material for political purposes. Especially a selective leak like this one.

Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the committee, has protested strongly against the staffer's suspension. Harman for several years has been a responsible member on the committee. But during the course of this calendar year, she has been making more shrill partisan statements and fewer thoughtful critiques. The most likely reason: pressure from the Democratic left.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is said to be determined to replace her with Alcee Hastings, the former federal judge who was impeached by the House for bribery and convicted and removed from office by the Senate. And Harman faced a challenger from the shrill left in the Democratic primary in her coastal Los Angeles area district. Harman has typically been re-elected without difficulty and has been willing to spend millions of her own money; her husband Sidney Harman is the dazzlingly successful sound-system manufacturer and philanthropist. Harman won the primary by only 62 to 38 percent. That's a narrow margin for a longtime incumbent (she was first elected in 1992, ran for governor and lost in the primary in 1998, then regained the seat in 2000). Her course since her primary tells us as much about the force of the left in the Democratic primary as Joe Lieberman's defeat two months later in his.