Steve Chapman

I continued to pester for evidence that would vindicate Rogers. At length, I got a statement from the chairman, which said, "Providing details of how terrorists have adapted their behavior based on what they have learned from the recent leaks would only compound the damage those leaks have done by giving our adversaries feedback on the quality of their work. I will say, broadly, that these leaks have done serious damage to our ability to detect and disrupt terrorist plots."

That evasion would be more believable if it hadn't occurred after officials spent hours publicly detailing how the NSA and FBI operate. Or if those officials had not shined a floodlight on specific plots and how these programs pulverized them.

It shouldn't be impossible to give Americans some sense of how the disclosures will help the terrorists. Will they get rid of their cellphones? Stay off the Internet? Use smoke signals? Actually, those don't sound like harms from the leaks -- they sound like benefits.

Maybe there are other obvious things they could do. Rogers avows he would be aiding our enemies if he said a word about what they might do. But our enemies already know what they can do. The only people who don't are ordinary Americans.

I hoped to have better luck with Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who says Snowden committed "treason." I called her press secretary, asked the same question I had asked Rogers' spokesperson and was promised a response. Despite additional calls, I never got it.

FBI Director Robert Mueller, appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, finally offered something tangible on the point. The leaks endanger Americans, he explained, because "you have persons who want to undertake terrorist attacks who don't have a full understanding of the Internet. And, to the extent that you expose programs like this, we are educating them."

Yes, he really said that. Maybe Mueller thinks the terrorists are incredibly dumb. Or maybe he just thinks we are.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

©Creators Syndicate