The arrogance of power is such that it may never have occurred to the senior government figures who recently leaked classified information about drone strikes and cyber warfare to the press that there would be any consequences for their actions. The all-too cozy relationship between the Obama administration and mainstream outlets like the New York Times instilled in them the notion that they could plant with impunity any story in the media to boost the president’s reputation. But the anger generated among the public and on both sides of the aisle in Congress by the constant stream of confidential information from the White House and the Pentagon to the front page of the Times has set in motion a series of events that may have consequences that will be felt long after the stories have run. Indeed, even if the president is re-elected, it may be that the effort to puff up his shaky reputation could sink a second term in scandal and prosecutions.
Of course, just how difficult things will get for some of the chatty members of the administration depends a great deal on the special prosecutors picked by Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the leaks after a storm of criticism on the issue forced his hand. As the Times points out today in a story buried on page 20 of their Sunday edition (in contrast to the front page placement of the pieces generated by the leaks in question), prosecuting someone for disclosing classified information can be tricky. But if the two U.S. Attorneys chosen to work on this case are determined to nail someone for this crime, then the odds are some senior administration figures will be going down, even if they are not the ones doing the leaking. The question is whether the Scooter Libby rules will apply.