Stanislav Lunev, a Soviet military intelligence officer who defected to the United States in 1992, wrote in his memoir, "Through the Eyes of the Enemy," "I was amazed -- and Moscow was very appreciative -- at how many times I found very sensitive information in American newspapers." The Soviet Union is gone. But the leak problem isn't.
Radical Islamic terrorists now benefit in the same way as our Cold War adversaries. In 1998, major U.S. media outlets revealed that the National Security Agency was able to monitor Osama bin Laden's conversations on his satellite telephone. Within days, bin Laden stopped using the phone, and less than three years later, nearly 3,000 people died in the 9/11 attacks. The carnage at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon and in a farm field in Somerset County, Pa., hasn't deterred leakers, either.
On June 8 of this year, Attorney General Eric Holder pledged that the Obama administration would investigate and bring leakers to justice. And now, we have yet another leak, this one about a presidential finding to provide "covert support" to the Syrian opposition. So much for swift justice.
What's amazing about this revelation is that there is nothing covert about what little the United States is doing to support opponents of al-Assad's brutal regime in Damascus. In fact, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced it all publicly on April 1, in Istanbul, Turkey -- April Fools' Day here at home. "I detailed measures that the United States is taking," she said, and went on to describe everything that has been written and said about the presidential finding: financial aid, communications support, training, medical aid and humanitarian aid for refugees.
This begs the question: If this presidential finding was issued months ago, why leak it now? Four reasons are evident:
First, the White House wants to deflect blame for not doing enough to prevent al-Assad -- and anyone else in the neighborhood -- from using Syria's stores of chemical or biological weapons.
Second, they knew in advance that Kofi Annan, the United Nation's "peace planner," was about to step down -- and blame everyone for his failure.
Third, the O-Team doesn't want us dwelling on our appalling lack of human intelligence about what's really happening on the ground in Syria and who is likely to take over when this civil war is over.
But most telling of all is the inescapable conclusion that leaks have become the new normal for the White House and our media. A leak of "classified information" gets play -- but a press release about helping the rebels won't. A press conference requires straightforward answers to questions. Leaks don't.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.