Send In The Plumbers

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Someone is twisting the old man's tail. In a July 31 letter leaked to the Associated Press Friday by an unnamed Pentagon source, Defense Secretary William Perry railed against Defense Department employees who are deliberately leaking classified information to the press, and called in the FBI to put a stop to it. When classified information is made public, wrote Perry in the leaked memo, it undermines U.S. intelligence sources and methods, and can put the lives of our spies in danger. While the FBI is in charge of tracking down the leakers, Perry ordered Pentagon managers to be sure that classified documents are handled strictly by the book. He also asked CIA Director John Deutch and other highly placed members of the intelligence community to review their procedures for distribution of classified materials, in order to reduce access to them. "Here we go again," says TIME's Bruce Nelan. "No administration ever learns that you cannot find leakers. Out of sheer frustration, they bring on the FBI, but never find out who is talking, and always end up looking like fools." Besides, says Nelan, the issue is not blown secrets or damaged intelligence assets. "Government officials always complain about security when stories make them look stupid. When the Washington Times runs an exclusive article detailing Chinese missile sales to Pakistan, the Administration gets angry: official policy is to continue good trade relations with China. But if the story is true, by law the U.S. is required to impose sanctions." If the FBI is serious about finding these scamps, the agents better be ready for some awkward situations. After all, says Nelan, "The biggest leakers in Washington are Bill Clinton and his senior officials, who consider leaks a tool for explaining their policy." -->