Past as Prologue: Why Difi Goes Nuts Over Leaks


Our 2012 Exit Poll and Office Pool Desk is still conducting its internal review of how our projection models of the primary vote for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination turned out so wrong. The guys failed to forecast that odds-on favorite Orly Taitz would lose narrowly to Elizabeth Emken by, um, 439,209 votes.

Now preliminary reports suggest their calculations underestimated the amount of campaign down time for Dr. Taitz, leader of the responsible dental-birther community, due to 1) an unexpected and unusually heavy volume of molar implant appointments and 2) a crucial fluoridation conference.

That aside, it also appears that human sacrifice GOP nominee Emken simply out-hustled the GOP field, and we’re here to attest there’s been no slow down for her since the primary, witness the 37 Emken campaign emails per day that pour into Calbuzz. Favorite to date: “Emken Leads All National U.S. Senate Candidates in Twitter Growth.” You could look it up.

We are considerably less impressed, however, with her balmy attack on the Senior Senator From California over the latest Beltway brouhaha about leaks of classified information. Auntie Em stamped her foot, shook her fist and huffed and puffed about “serious issues about our intelligence gathering capability,” harrumph, harrumph. Seriously? This from someone whose  entire experience in national security consists of calling ADT to reset the password for the alarm system.

Who owns the information? There is an attack line to be made against Dianne Feinstein on the leak issue, but it’s not one that Emken is likely to make anytime soon.

That would be the public’s right to know vs. national security, an argument nicely framed the other day by the ubiquitous Joe Mathews, who correctly noted that, “the government routinely classifies public information and keeps most secrets to protect its power, not the public.”

Still, it’s a tricky issue, and we don’t take lightly the notion that unauthorized release of classified information can potentially, maybe, sometimes be harmful. That said, it certainly appears that the New York Times was plenty responsible in advance of publication, going ahead only after giving the government a heads up and not getting a wave-off. Plus: the First Amendment.

Now Feinstein is heading up a bipartisan posse, apparently bent on stringing up whoever is responsible for having leaked national security secrets to the Times.

We don’t disagree with Debra Saunders, our favorite Republican, who applauded Difi’s political cojones because Herself disregarded partisan concerns about possibly embarrassing the White House in her anti-leak jihad. In a well-reported commentary about the controversy, the Old Chronicler correctly noted that “this crusade can’t be helpful to DiFi politically” because “many in her liberal base regard accused leakers…not as security threats but as heroic whistle-blowers.”

Why do you keep putting things in the paper? It’s also true, however, that Difi’s high dudgeon in this case has as much to do with who she is as with what information was leaked.

Since her earliest days in politics, two things always have been true about Feinstein: 1-She really, really, really hates leaks, no matter how insignificant or mundane; 2) she’s not that crazy about reporters, either.

During a visit she made to China as mayor of San Francisco, Difi once lectured former Chronicle City Hall newsie Evelyn Hsu, who was covering the trip, telling her American reporters should be more like their Chinese counterparts:

“They just write down what we say,” she told Hsu.

In the current controversy, Feinstein’s comments on CNN about David Sanger, the Times reporter who developed the information that is the focus of her leak investigation, spoke volumes about her view of the proper role of the press:

 One report that has irritated lawmakers is New York Times correspondent David Sanger’s story last week confirming long-suspected U.S. involvement in development of the computer virus Stuxnet, which reportedly caused significant damage to nuclear centrifuges in Iran.

 Feinstein suggested that in advance of the publication of Sanger’s story, he misled her about the likely impact of his reporting.

 “He came into my office. He saw me….He assured me that what he was publishing, he had worked out with various agencies and he didn’t believe that anything was revealed that wasn’t known already,” the senator said on CNN. “Well, I read ‘The New York Times’ article and my heart dropped, because he wove a tapestry which has an impact that’s beyond any single one thing. And he’s very good at what he does. And he spent a year figuring it all out. And he’s just one. And this is a problem.

(BTW, Feinstein also told Saunders that she’s still reading “Confront and Conceal,” Sanger’s new book:  “You learn more from the book than I did as chairman of the intelligence committee, and that’s very disturbing to me,” which Atlantic Wire noted is, “the best book plug ever”).

Anyway: “He’s just one?” Really? Round up the usual suspects.

The wayback machine: Difi’s performance in recent days reminded us of another incident from her long-ago days as mayor, when a far less important leak upset her, but her outrage was roughly equivalent:

Journalists who covered her were not immune from the mayor’s temper. She would not hesitate to call reporters whose stories angered her or, sometimes phone their editors first.

When the Chronicle’s Reggie Smith broke a story about the conclusions reached by a Feinstein task force on a new ballpark, which she was not ready to release, she summoned him to her office and sternly said that such “premature ejaculations” should not be in the newspaper.

David Sanger beware.






subscribe to comments RSS

There are 7 comments for this post

  1. avatar pyrdog1 says:

    My problem with the Chrons conservative attack dog Ms Saunders who i occasionally find pleasantly amusing is she seems to somehow believe that Lady Di, the Princess of St Francis Woods is by some definition a “liberal,” a pejorative term I know.

    between protecting big business and her friends at the Westlands Water District and Paramount Farms, it is remarkable she has time to get her tiarra properly festooned each morning, let alone root out those spilling national secrets to the subsversives at the NYT.

    Good job oh imperial protector of the empire – i am probably too easily swayed by emotion to digest the postives in all this secrecy! Thank you for protecting me.

    • avatar chrisfinnie says:

      True that. My mother, a devotee of Rush Limbaugh, says DiFi is the only Democrat she’d consider voting for. ‘Nuff said.

    • avatar pjhackenflack says:

      For the record, “St. Francis Wood” should be “Pacific Heights” or, more precisely, “Presidio Terrace.”

  2. avatar hclark says:

    A month ago when DHS Sec. Neapolitano was before Difi’s committee she went on a tirade regarding the lack of farm labor for this harvest, going so far as to demand action to relieve her 81,000 farmers. Then last Friday President Obama came to the rescue, because when you read the fine print of the DHS order pulling back on deportations it’s not just the children that are going to be allowed to stay. If this was a deal then why not just admit it and get the credit for getting the harvest in?

  3. avatar GeoHagop says:

    PSSST: Did you know that DiFi is married to a corrupt fraudster who uses his position as a UC Regent to steer investment to his for-profit schools? http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2010-06-22/article/35661
    This is all very hush, hush, so, please, don’t tell anyone I told you.

  4. avatar Cal Lib says:

    DiFi is simply a statist. As you posit, this isn’t about our security, it is about protecting government’s power.

  5. avatar Livemike says:

    “You learn more from the book than I did as chairman of the intelligence committee, and that’s very disturbing to me,”
    Yeah people tend to know more about a subject when they do their job well. You’re not doing your job well and he’s doing his well. In fact he’s doing your job pretty well too. So why not resign and let him do it?

Please, feel free to post your own comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.