Insiders say leaks will affect foreign policy -- but only a little

Pakistani protesters condemned American bombing in 2006. Pakistani protesters condemned American bombing in 2006. Mohammad Zubair/AP file photo

National Journal’s National Security Insiders said the recent and much-condemned national-security leaks to news organizations will damage American foreign policy--but only a little.

Fifty-six percent said that the leaks, which included confirmation of sustained U.S. cyberattacks on computers that run Iran’s nuclear-enrichment sites and details about President Obama’s use of drone strikes against suspected terrorists, would have a minimal impact on foreign policy. “The United States will find it increasingly difficult to conduct foreign policy if it cannot keep its secrets,” one Insider said. “On the other hand, leaks are all too common already--these leaks are just more of the same, albeit with perhaps graver consequences since they deal with attacks against a foreign state.”

The leaks may damage foreign policy, another Insider said, but they won’t affect national security. “It seems clear that the Iran leak was for partisan political purposes, but it's not as though Iran failed to notice what was happening at the time. The willy-nilly leaking of relatively sensitive information over the past few years with few grave consequences just shows how overclassified U.S. foreign policy is.”

Twenty-three percent of Insiders were more concerned about the implications. One Insider said that the greatest damage came by the “seemingly official confirmation” that Washington was behind the Stuxnet attack on Iranian computer systems. “Prior to the claim of responsibility by administration officials, even experts were unsure who was responsible for the attack,” one Insider said.

“Iran will use this confirmation to justify its own acts of deception and concealment in the nuclear area, and to try to portray itself as the victim rather than the source of the problem. And why? Because some selfish people who care more about their own interests than the interests of the nation wanted to make themselves and their boss look good.”

Only 21 percent said the leaks would have no impact. “Everybody hates leaks; everybody leaks,” one Insider said. “It only damages U.S. foreign policy if you like the policy.”

Separately, against the backdrop of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta indicating that U.S. patience with Pakistan is wearing thin, 58 percent of Insiders said they expect relations between the two countries to get even worse by November. That time frame falls one year after the NATO strike that mistakenly killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers along the border with Afghanistan--and coincides with the U.S. presidential elections.

“The U.S. and Pakistan are on a collision course because of the view of both Congress and the Obama administration that Pakistan is little more than a American vassal state, subject to U.S. orders and commands,” one Insider said. “Pakistan is approaching the point of rebellion.”

The Bush administration sought Pakistani support by “bribing them with Coalition Support Funds,” another Insider said. “The early Obama administration tried hugging the military elite. Nothing worked. Tough talk is the third approach.”

Thirty-nine percent said that the relations would stay about the same. “Relations cannot get much worse without an outright break, and that won't happen,” one Insider said.

See the rest of the survey results at the National Journal.

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