Where I work we often have to deal with classified information, which is a big responsibility because the lives of many Americans depends on keeping that information secure. Our briefings instructing us on how to handle such sensitive information stress that we must never confirm or deny any statements from which classified data could be inferred. The fact that such data has been printed in the newspaper is not relevant.
It seems that Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, never got that briefing.
Feinstein answered a reporter's question about the location of our Predator drones by saying, “As I understand it, these are flown out of a Pakistani base.”
Her defense for offering this highly sensitive information was just repeating what she had read in the newspaper. I'm not buying it. First of all, she didn't say "The newspaper said they were flown out of Pakistan." She cited her own understanding, and she is in a position to know for sure. There is a huge difference between making an allegation in a local paper and having the chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence confirm it.
Feinstein's ill-considered blabbermouthing didn't go over well in Pakistan. “The Drones Are Here!” proclaimed the Pakistan Daily Times. This places Islamabad in an uncomfortable situation, though the government issued a swift and unequivocal denial. Who can blame them?
Fighting an intelligence-based war such as the one in Afghanistan requires a great deal of discretion, and a trusting relationship with friendly nations in the area is critical. In one thoughtless moment, Feinstein blew that trust. Not only will blowing the cover on this operation endanger the cooperation we have gotten from the Zardari government and make Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke's job that much harder, it will also endanger our drones, which are now sure to be a high-priority target for al Qaeda.
The Democrats are showing again that they are simply not ready for prime time in fighting the war on terror.