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Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) let slip that Predator drones used to fight Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan are being launched from Pakistan, a hugely covert operation designed to protect the vulnerable Pakistani government:
At a hearing, Feinstein expressed surprise at Pakistani opposition to the ongoing campaign of Predator-launched CIA missile strikes against Al Qaeda targets along Pakistan’s northwest border.
“As I understand it, these are flown out of a Pakistani base,” she said of the planes.
Talk about irresponsible.
One of the arguments many administrations have made about telling Congress classified information and covert operations was that too many can’t keep their big yaps shut. Bush’s Terrorist Surveillance Program was one of those exceptions as the members, of both parties, who did know about it said nothing for four years, and were actually quite supportive of the TSP; it was a low-level Justice Department hack that exposed the story to the New York Times.
Democrats in Congress went bananas over Valerie Plame’s covert status (yes, she was covert) being blown by Bob Novak, screaming for years that the eeeevil Darth Cheney deliberately did so to “punish” Plame’s moronic husband Joe “Yellowcake” Wilson (my nickname for him) for “bravely” standing up to the “lies” of the Chimpy McBushHitler administration. Yet, it was actually the CIA who allowed Wilson to publish his lies, even though they knew Plame was covert (it’s why nobody was charged with violating the IIPA).
Now we have a sitting Senator, a member of the same Party as the President, inadvertantly but stupidly exposing the U.S. and the Pakistani government for the Predator attacks. As mentioned by Ed Morrissey:
Until now, that was a closely guarded secret. The drone attacks are incredibly unpopular among the Pakistani public, and the US didn’t want to undermine the current, democratically-elected government in Islamabad. They wanted to give the Yousef Gilani government deniability on their cooperation with the American military in order to keep our options for attack open.
This exposure will cause much greater damage. The Pakistani public will almost certainly demand an end to these Predator flights, which have been highly successful at decimating terrorist leadership in inaccessible areas of the Pakistani frontier. Without that kind of tactic available, we will have to fall back to more intrusive and potentially less effective overflights from Afghanistan. This could allow our enemies breathing room to rebuild their networks in the region, and put us on a collision course with Islamabad on our efforts to fight them. At the very least, Feinstein has just complicated the diplomatic situation for Barack Obama by an order of magnitude.
Although it looks like this was a mistake, Feinstein needs to pay for this mistake. At minimum, she should be stripped of every committee she’s in or that she chairs. Perhaps she should be censured, but I doubt Senate Majority Leader Reid would undertake that action. But as stated by Morrissey, Feinstein has really complicated matters for the new administration, an administration which is already struggling on pretty much everything.