Splashed on the front page of today's New York Times is a story headlined, "U.S. Hopes to Use Pakistani Tribes Against al Qaeda." Here is the first paragraph: "WASHINGTON, Nov. 18 — A new and classified American military proposal outlines an intensified effort to enlist tribal leaders in the frontier areas of Pakistan in the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, as part of a broader effort to bolster Pakistani forces against an expanding militancy, American military officials said."
The fourth word of the story is "classified." Did it strike anybody at the Times that perhaps "classified" information should not be published on the front page, or frankly anywhere else in the paper?
The piece goes on: "The tribal proposal, a strategy paper prepared by staff members of the United States Special Operations Command, has been circulated to counterterrorism experts but has not yet been formally approved by the command’s headquarters in Tampa, Fla."
I guess the military commanders don't have to wait to get a copy BECAUSE THEY CAN NOW READ IT ON THE FRONT PAGE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES.
A cynic might suggest that perhaps the military itself leaked this to make sure they got funding for the project. But that flies in the face of the delicate nature of our dealings with Pakistan. President Musharraf is hanging by a thread and the Islamists are waiting in the wings to seize control of the regime and the nuclear weapons. If the United States looks like it's injecting itself too much into Pakistan, Musharraf falls and the country slips into chaos.
Whomever leaked this must have known the damage it would do to our efforts to help Pakistan fight al Qaeda. Those plans are intricate, sensitive, and now, no longer classified.