Giving away security secrets is serious crime The Sun...

SATURDAY MAILBOX

August 17, 2002

Giving away security secrets is serious crime

The Sun refers to the current FBI investigation into the unauthorized disclosure of national security information as a farce and an absurdity ("Curtains for FBI farce," editorial, Aug. 7). But it is The Sun's ignorance or deliberate misrepresentation of the situation that could be considered absurd or farcical, if this were not such a serious matter.

The FBI is not conducting a wide-ranging investigation of congressional leaks. It is attempting to determine which members of Congress or their staff members betrayed their obligation to safeguard sensitive intelligence material and, in so doing, violated not only their oath to protect this material but also U.S. laws governing its disclosure.

As the editorial suggested, the press loves blabbermouths. So do our adversaries. Our enemies and our potential foes benefit from the publication of information that compromises extremely sensitive sources and methods used in intelligence collection and analysis. When these sources and methods are revealed through congressional leaks or journalistic irresponsibility, our enemies react by tightening their security.

That makes it far more difficult for our intelligence agencies to collect and analyze material that might provide timely warning of future terrorist attacks and thereby protect the lives of American citizens.

The editorial is correct that the public has a right to know about the activities of government agencies. For the activities of the U.S. intelligence community, that right is exercised through oversight by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

The members of these committees are the elected representatives of the U.S. public. When they leak sensitive material, they betray our trust and break the law. They should be subject to penalties.

Unfortunately, the press is not subject to penalty or punishment for printing or broadcasting information that could strengthen our enemies and weaken our government's efforts to defend us.

One would hope that patriotism and genuine concern for the safety of our country would be enough reason for reporters and editors to act responsibly. But too many journalists place a higher value on a scoop and their egos than on our national interests and safety.

Jeremiah Davis

Linthicum Heights

New center protects access to Capitol

The Sun's editorial "No-visitors center?" (July 19) uses a series of inaccuracies and ungrounded cynicism to make a point about the Capitol Visitor Center under construction in Washington. As chairman of the firm honored to be the architect for this complex and challenging building, I thought Sun readers should have the benefit of the facts.

The primary purpose of the new center is to provide visitors with a safe, comfortable and educational visit to the Capitol.

While the events of Sept. 11 have caused us to review security measures, our dedication to open access has remained steadfast and Congress' insistence on this has remained firm.

The visitor center's total cost is about $300 million -- not the $1 billion The Sun suggested.

Granted, this is not exactly a small sum. But consider that the Capitol offers more than 4 million visitors a year from every country on the planet an object lesson on this country's legislative process and a first-hand glimpse of the underpinnings of a democratic process that has lasted more than two centuries. The investment seems worth it to me.

And the "gobs of new office space" the editorial mentions are actually hearing rooms, meeting space and other facilities needed for the smooth administration of Congress.

As symbolic and cherished as it is, the Capitol is still a working, thriving office building that has not had a major refurbishment in more than three decades. Adding modern facilities is hardly an extravagance; it is sorely needed to alleviate cramped conditions in many of the building's offices.

The center will be a three-story underground facility. The complex -- and somewhat controversial -- decision to design an underground facility was made, among other reasons, to maintain views of the building and retain the historic landscaping around the building. It is no small feat to construct a building of this size underground, beneath an Olmsted-designed plaza and adjacent to one of the most historic structures in the country.

It's true that the "Capitol is our most powerful symbol of the freedom and democracy we are fighting to protect." Every person on Earth should visit it, learn its lessons, and come to know its history.

The Capitol Visitor Center will give more people the opportunity to do so.

Harold L. Adams

Baltimore

The writer is chairman of RTKL Associates Inc.

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