The rhetorical purpose of leaks…

Are you shocked, SHOCKED that the liberal, anti-American news media has, yet again, leaked our sensitive plans to invade Iraq? See these articles in The Washington Post and The New York Times. Well, get over it. These are not leaks, i.e. secret information that’s not supposed to get out. The Pentagon allows this information out for rhetorical purposes–in this case, and among other things, to let Saddam Hussein know we mean business. Howard Kurtz offers a look at how the government constructs a leak so that it appears reporters have shined light into otherwise dark corners. It’s part of making the leak appear real. He says:

Such leaks have appeared before. But now, just as the U.N. is about to send in weapons inspectors and the administration is rattling its sabers about the need for swift compliance, the war blueprints make their way into the press.

This is not to suggest that the information was nicely packaged like a gourmet meal and FedExed to compliant correspondents. The process doesn’t work that way. Reporters have to dig and call numerous sources to excavate such material.

But it’s also true that if an administration clams up tight