Could Be Trouble

Leaks and Lhasa Apsos

06.11.12 11:33 AM ET

This security leaks story might get big. Partly because, as Frum argues, there might well be something to it (actually, he's pretty much convinced there is). And partly because Republicans in Congress are heading an investigation, and it seems obvious that even if they find nothing, they'll gin up something in advance of the election.

Let's think, for the moment, more broadly about national security leaks. Recent experience, including that of the Bush administration, suggests that they rarely come from the top. High officials have been clever enough for decades to shield themselves from direct culpability. If you're Dick Cheney and you want the world to know that Saddam Hussein is six months away from a nuclear weapon (which was a lie, but that's another story), you don't instruct subordinates to go send out the information. That leaves fingerprints. You do things much more subtly, ensuring that underlings get the idea, but never, ever in a way that anyone under oath could ever say that you directed them to do X.

Hence my headline here. The Lhasa Apso is the small Tibetan dog whom many unsuspecting passersby find adorable but who is one mean sonuvabitch. The Apso, so I've read, used to sit right in front of the king's throne in the old days. Vistors would come up and say, "Aww, what a cute--ouch, holy shit!"

The Lhasa Apsos are the leakers. The fierce loyalists who surround the king. Maybe acting on a nudge and a wink from higher up, but maybe not--maybe just indepedently deciding that it's a good idea that we confirm to the world that we Stuxnetted Iran, ha ha. I believe Obama that neither he nor anyone really high up directed any leaks--not because they're wonderful people, but because high-up people know better (this is what made the Valerie Plame business so unusual). So I doubt this goes to high levels. But if the Republicans can snare one real-live and identifiable Lhasa Apso, that may cause the adminstration headaches, and--to cut to the chase--it may be worth two points in Virginia.