Will the Pentagon wire up Henry Kissinger, Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich–that is, submit them to lie detector tests? And do the same with all other members of the Defense Policy Board? It seems that someone connected with this advisory panel–a neocon-tilting group of prominent ex-government officials chaired by former Reagan Pentagon official Richard Perle–leaked word to The Washington Post of a private briefing. In that session, RAND analyst Laurent Murawiec maintained that Saudi Arabia, due to its support of Islamic terrorists, ought to be considered an adversary of the United States and that Washington should demand that Riyadh cease funding Islamic fundamentalist outlets. If the Saudis do not comply, he argued, its oil fields and overseas financial assets should be “targeted.”
After news of this briefing hit the front page, administration officials rushed to put out the firestorm. This was not the message the White House wanted to send to Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations, as the administration was trying to win support for a military move against Saddam Hussein. And with the White House in the process of establishing an Office of Global Communications to improve the image of the United States overseas, now was not a good time for stories reporting that senior advisers to the Pentagon–former defense secretaries James Schlesinger and Harold Brown, former CIA director R. James Woolsey, and ex-House Speaker Thomas Foley sit on this board–were discussing strikes against Arab oil wells. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell quickly explained that Murawiec’s views did not reflect official US policy.
At a Q&A session with Pentagon employees, Rumsfeld criticized the leak. “I just think it’s a terribly unprofessional thing to do and clearly harmful,” he said. “It’s harmful in this case, for example, because it creates a misimpression that someone then has to figure out a way to correct.” Rumsfeld did later say the briefing was not classified, but he was adamant that the leak harmed US interests. So what is he going to do about it?
Recently, classified information spilled from the 9/11 investigation being conducted by the House and Senate intelligence committees. In response, the chairmen of the committees called in the FBI to find the leaker. But when the FBI asked the 37 members of the committees to undergo lie detector tests, nearly all of the legislators refused, citing the inaccuracy of polygraphs and the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of government. Conservative pundits–and a few members of Congress–derided the committee members for this. The argument was, in time of war, any patriotic citizen should do what he or she can to plug leaks. Will the Defense Policy Board members accept such reasoning?