By MICHAEL GOODWIN
Pete King, the Long Island Republican, kept his cool recently when he had every right to lose it. During an interview about King's criticism of media leaks and a film about the Osama bin Laden raid, one of CNN's liberal poodles suggested King was being "a little silly" since there were so many important things happening in Washington.
Whoa, Nellie! My head almost exploded just watching, but King's eyes flashed red only for an instant before he coherently repeated his point: The White House could be leaking secret information, putting lives and future missions at stake, and that's pretty damn important.
So it is, and King, who is already examining Islamic radicalization, is off again to slay more sacred cows. That this battle involves the Hollywood elite makes it all the more delicious.
King's concern started when he saw a drip, drip of sensitive operational details emerging since the May 1 bin Laden killing. Magazines and newspapers had information that, as head of the House Committee on Homeland Security, he knew was supposed to remain secret.
The published details he's worried about include: the name of the courier who was followed to the compound in Pakistan, that retired Pakistani military officers were recruited by the CIA to man an observation post near the compound, where the FBI got a DNA sample from a bin Laden family member, the capabilities of our satellites, the base the helicopters used in Afghanistan and how they evaded Pakistani radar, the names, bases and training sites used by units on the mission, the number of SEALs involved, the weapons and equipment they carried, which al Qaeda plots we learned of from data seized in the compound, which may tell al Qaeda which plots we do not know about.
King notes that at least five Pakistanis were arrested after the reports surfaced.
"Nobody in the intelligence world or the military is going to give out that kind of information unless they're told to from above," he told me. He called the leaks "an inside job" and added that the failure of the administration to probe the sources "shows they are involved."
If that were all, it would be more than enough. But the stench from the film project reveals how the raid is being put to propaganda use by President Obama's political team.
A filmmaker is getting favored treatment for a movie scheduled to be released a month before the 2012 election. The film is being distributed by Sony, whose top brass gave Obama a fund-raiser last April.
Maureen Dowd of The New York Times first reported that Kathryn Bigelow, director of the Oscar-winning "Hurt Locker," and a screenwriter are getting wide access to defense and intelligence sources. King said he heard from insiders that Bigelow attended a CIA ceremony honoring the SEALs involved in the raid.
King, who lavished praise on Obama for the mission, doesn't begrudge the president getting a legitimate political boost. But he notes that military secrets are held for years or decades and released only when the war is over and there is zero chance the enemy can benefit.
To that end, he wants inspectors general in defense and intelligence to make sure no classified information has been released, to draw up guidelines for what can be released and to make sure the limits are enforced.
Those aims are modest. There's already too much smoke around these leaks for there not to be fire. Let's put it out before the nation gets burned.