So, Would This Strike You as Sleazy? (Somewhat Political in Nature)

Hypothetical scenerio here, and I’m not looking for how plausible you might think this is, just what your reaction would be if something like it occured.

Okay, let’s say that tomorrow the Bush Administration annouces that in conjunction with several other nations, the US conducted a large number of raids and not only managed to capture/kill Osama, but 90% of all Al Qaida cells operating in the world. A few months later, after all the celebrations have died down, a senator on one of the intelligence committee’s comes forth and makes the claim that the CIA’s supercomputers had been able to crack the most common forms of encryption since the 1990s, further more, it’s his contention that not only could we do this, but that we were listening in on every conversation via sat phone that Osama made with his minons, and thus had to have known ahead of time about 9/11 and other attacks. To back up his claims, he releases copies of transcripts of conversations Osama had with his operatives.

Now, the CIA isn’t able to decrypt the communications in real time, it takes a couple of days for it to be decrypted and then translated into English. The transcripts reveal that prior to an Al Qaida operation, the conversations would give hints that something was about to happen, but no specifics about what was going to happen when or where until after the attacks occured. The senator makes the claim that he feels the CIA is holding out on the American people and holds hearings on the matter, where even members from the Clinton Administration testify that they never picked up any specific details about an event until after it occurred.

So, this senator has just revealed to the world not only were we able to listen in on Osama’s conversations, but that all encrypted communications could be decrypted by the CIA. How do you feel about it? Since now everyone who was using encrypted methods to pass information/conversations knows that if the US does an intercept, they’ll be able to crack it, and can take steps to prevent the US from listening in. Places like North Korea and Iran for example, also the various drug cartels around the world. (And for the sake of this scenerio, assume that the CIA’s telling the truth.)

Dunno. Some people think that it is more noble to go out and conquer villainy and others think that this just makes you the aggressor.
If a politician endangered the US based on his own personal morallity of being 100% honest–I could accept that. I would think he was a complete moron, but I would still respect his honesty just the same as I can respect a dedicated pacifist.

I will point out that this is loosely based on an actual incident which occured some years ago. And while there’s no proof of exactly what the Congressman’s motives were, there’s indications that it was purely political opportunitism.

You built this complex house of cards and asked us to make a judgement. I can’t untangle all the, presumably unnecessary, details to reach a conclusion.

As to whether a senator has the moral right/obligation to reveal classified information in order to right a wrong or to prevent a wrong. As usual, it depends. Is the harm caused by revealing the information greater than or less than the harm by not releasing the information. That has to be a case-by-case decision and different people will reach different conclusions.

Is the senator legally able to do this? Well members of congress IIRC have a specific constitutional right to say anything they want (to debate) on the floor, so presumably no law passed by the congress can take that right away.

Sounds like it would make a great Robert Ludlum novel.