Jeffrey LewisA Curious Sort of Leak

I am fascinated by this curious “intelligence issue” that Senator Risch cited in an unsuccessful effort to delay the Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote on the resolution of ratification for the New START Treaty.

It seems, according to a pair of stories by Josh Rogin (Risch Tries to Halt Vote on New START Over Undisclosed Intelligence Issue, Senate Committee Approves New START Treaty Amid Concerns Over Russian Cheating), the “intelligence community had come to the [Senate Foreign Relations] committee with a last minute issue” that Risch described rather prejudicially as “shocking information that if true would fundamentally impact the treaty and should prevent the committee from proceeding in any way.”

This is a curious sort of “leak” — since it isn’t really a leak at all.

Normally, something like this ends up on the front page of the Washington Times in all its gory detail: You know, RUSSIA SUSPECTED OF NUCLEAR TESTING, to pick a not entirely hypothetical example.

This, however, is not a leak. It is a statement, or better an allusion, by Risch.  (As best I can tell, Risch made some references in committee, then gave Rogin a follow-up interview.  Rogin conflates the two conversations and does a lot of paraphrasing, so sometimes it is hard to tell if Rogin is making Risch look foolish, or if Risch is doing it all by himself.)

Follow-up stories in the Washington Post and Washington Times contain nary an actual detail about what Risch called “some very serious information that directly affects what we’re doing here.” (Kudos to Mary Beth Sheridan, who actually bothered to quote Risch.)

So, what gives?

I suppose it is possible that treaty opponents within the intelligence community, having rushed an intelligence report over to the Hill on eve of the vote, were just very scrupulous about not leaking intelligence.  Or terrified by what happened to Stephen Kim.

Or, perhaps, the reason that we don’t see the precise allegation splashed across the Washington Times is that the details will prove somewhat of a letdown.  It may serve the interest of treaty opponents to darkly hint at some Russian perfidy, apparently involving some other treaty, than to come clean with the details.

“You haven’t seen the stuff that I’ve seen,” Risch told Rogin. Ah, yes, that is the argument, isn’t it?

Of course 14 Senators, including Bob Corker and Johnny Isakson, did see the same stuff as Risch, and still voted for the resolution of ratification.

Like other things in life, perhaps this intelligence is sexier when something is left to the imagination.


  1. FSB (History)

    Maybe they discovered that the Russians, too, are working on an unworkable National Missile Defense system, and want to increase US stockpiles just in case — sort of what the Chinese are going to do w/r/t our unworkable missile defense.

  2. Cameron (History)

    It reminds me a bit of the scare piece done in Our Dumb Century (a publication of the onion a parody paper for those overseas) about a CIA report detailing whats inside those Russian Dolls…


    I hate when life copies comedy