Conservatives are rolling their eyes watching the political left's outrage over the Valerie Plame identity controversy, wondering when it was exactly that liberals suddenly became the super patriots defending the virtues of the CIA. For a half-century the American political left has done everything in its power to undermine the national security of this country. Now we are to believe, as they wring their hands in agony and outrage - outrage, I say! - over Ms. Plame's outing, that they...care? This goes beyond rank hypocrisy. It is intellectual dishonesty.
Let's visit the left's record on national security matters. History is not kind. Where was the left when the Rosenbergs, communists both, fed our nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union? Both were deep-fried for the treason they'd committed. Liberals tut-tutted then and tut-tut now, and don't tell me there aren't hardened leftists who favored giving nuclear weapons to the Soviets to thwart what they considered America's imperial ambitions. What of Alger Hiss, another Soviet spy who also committed treason against his country? To this day he remains a darling of the political left. Up until the moment he died he was the left's poster child for American national security oppression.
Rather than defend the integrity of the CIA, the American left has done everything in its power to destroy it. It was Seymour Hersh and the New York Times that launched a campaign to paint the CIA as a "rogue elephant" agency back in 1974. Their efforts led to both houses of Congress, led by Democrats, working overtime during the Carter administration, to gut the agency's intelligence-gathering operations. Some liberals went further. CBS reporter Daniel Schorr lost his job when he leaked the secret House report on the CIA to the Village Voice, an action that outraged Americans but certainly pleased some folks at National Public Radio. They were pleased enough to hire him.
The left's crusade against the CIA hit a wall when Ronald Reagan was elected, with anti-CIA stalwart senators like Frank Church sent packing along with Jimmy Carter. He signed into law the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 - the very law that is at the center of the Plame controversy. It was a liberal, long-time California Congressman Don Edwards, who pointed out that "No amount of tinkering, either with the statutory language itself or with the report, can render this bill constitutional." Only 32 members joined him in his dissension - all liberal Democrats like Patricia Schroeder, John Conyers, and now-Senator Charles Schumer.
It passed the Senate by a margin of 81 to 4, with Sen. John Chafee, in a rare fit of political sanity, leading the charge by alleging that hard-left magazines "CounterSpy" and "Covert Action Information Bulletin" had outed more than 2,000 intelligence officers around the world. It took a liberal, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, to denounce the proposed law "which, while making it easier to convict scoundrels, will chill the exercise of First Amendment rights." Joe Biden also voted against this bill.
Liberals outside of Congress also tried their best to undermine the law that could send "Scooter" Libby to prison. The American Civil Liberties Union slammed it as a "clearly unconstitutional infringement on the right of free speech." Morton H. Halperin, director of ACLU's Center for National Security Studies, not only promised to provide legal assistance to people who outed CIA agents, he also publicly stated that covert operations should be banned. Bill Clinton, a man who refused to lower himself to face-to-face daily CIA briefings, tried to appoint Mort Halperin to the Defense Department.
The liberal news media also did their very best. Just read the editorial page of the New York Times for March 22, 1982. Judith Miller's employers declared that "an angry, flag-waving Congress is making it a crime to print names the Government doesn't want published, even when they are derived from public sources. Last week the Senate refused to be outdone by the House in making the Intelligence Identities Protection Act offensive to the Bill of Rights."
The editorial concluded with a flourish. "What happens when Congress thus ignores the Constitution? Courageous members will continue to fight the issue in House-Senate conference. Resourceful journalists will maintain their vigilance against official secrecy. Government can forbear and use its illegitimate power sparingly. All should hope the courts will wipe the law from the books."
The political left's record on national security in general, and the CIA and the Intelligence Identities Protection Act in particular, is crystal clear. It takes gall, real gall, to pretend otherwise.