(Hat tip: Powerline)
Dear Messrs. Keller, Lichtblau & Risen:
Congratulations on disclosing our government’s highly classified anti-terrorist-financing program (June 23). I apologize for not writing sooner. But I am a lieutenant in the United States Army and I spent the last four days patrolling one of the more dangerous areas in Iraq. (Alas, operational security and common sense prevent me from even revealing this unclassified location in a private medium like email.)
Unfortunately, as I supervised my soldiers late one night, I heard a booming explosion several miles away. I learned a few hours later that a powerful roadside bomb killed one soldier and severely injured another from my 130-man company. I deeply hope that we can find and kill or capture the terrorists responsible for that bomb. But, of course, these terrorists do not spring from the soil like Plato’s guardians. No, they require financing to obtain mortars and artillery shells, priming explosives, wiring and circuitry, not to mention for training and payments to locals willing to emplace bombs in exchange for a few months’ salary. As your story states, the program was legal, briefed to Congress, supported in the government and financial industry, and very successful.
Not anymore. You may think you have done a public service, but you have gravely endangered the lives of my soldiers and all other soldiers and innocent Iraqis here. Next time I hear that familiar explosion — or next time I feel it — I will wonder whether we could have stopped that bomb had you not instructed terrorists how to evade our financial surveillance.
And, by the way, having graduated from Harvard Law and practiced with a federal appellate judge and two Washington law firms before becoming an infantry officer, I am well-versed in the espionage laws relevant to this story and others — laws you have plainly violated. I hope that my colleagues at the Department of Justice match the courage of my soldiers here and prosecute you and your newspaper to the fullest extent of the law. By the time we return home, maybe you will be in your rightful place: not at the Pulitzer announcements, but behind bars.
Very truly yours,
Today, Powerline answers critics who think that Lt. Cotton is a fictional character. Someone who knows Lt. Cotton responds.
He performed admirably at law school, took a turn clerking with A-1 firms in Washington, then an Eighth Circuit clerkship. In a word, the world was his oyster. But after 9/11, duty called. Tom volunteered, led his OCS class and, I believe, his Ranger class as well. He is indeed an officer and a gentleman, well schooled in the virtues of the ancients, and even more so in the principles of the Declaration and the thought of Abraham Lincoln. On this Fourth of July, let us particularly salute, and give thanks for, his exemplary courage and patriotism. And Happy Independence Day to all of you.
I think we know who the real defenders of American freedom and democracy are. And they aren’t self-proclaimed professionals who publish state secrets in a time of war.