by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Leaking in political capitals like Washington can be a sophisticated strategic game with trade-craft elements of a John LeCarre novel involving code words, secret rendezvous in person or by phone and fake messages to advance or defeat a cause and especially to detect a leaker’s identity. Remember during Watergate reporters convening with their secret source in an underground parking garage?
The Trump White House is said to be concerned about leaks involving the president’s recent telephone calls with world leaders. Thursday Sean Spicer asserted, “We’re looking into the situation, yes, and it’s very concerning.” Spicer said the leaks, not all accurate or complimentary, were of “personal concern” to Trump.
True, unplanned leaks drive some politicians crazy. President Lyndon Johnson would get apoplectic over them as personal betrayals, which they are in a way. Some officials, such as George W. Bush, minimize unplanned leaks by building strong two-way personal loyalties with senior staff.
OK, here’s the deal: We’ll never know the truth about these Trump leaks. All news consumers can do each time is evaluate the credibility of known details and the likely motives of participants. …
… Let’s examine the leaks of Spicer’s concern: They involved specific details of Trump phone conversations, some distorted to put the new president in a negative light. Pool reporters were sometimes allowed to watch and photograph parts of the conversations from outside the Oval Office’s bulletproof windows. Only a few aides were present, typically Mike Flynn, national security adviser, and Steve Bannon, chief strategist.
So, the leaks most likely came from those who obtained later access to reports of the conversations, perhaps even members of Congress. They have a well-earned reputation for leaking like a colander.
If the administration is genuinely seeking a leaker’s identity, it could plant one different juicy detail in each copy of the report sent out. When a particular detail emerges in the media, they’d know who had received that detail.
But truth be told, no one will ever uncover the identity. And more than likely, Sherlock Spicer’s loud vow of tracking them down is actually attempted intimidation intended to curb future leaks.