A Cable News Network report on a congressional committee preparing to reveal some of the
clues to Sept. 11 that may have been available to the intelligence community prior
to the attacks may have made government officials uncomfortable, national
security correspondent David Ensor told a roomful of journalists, lawyers and
government officials Monday, but it was no affront to national security.
Ensor, attending a Media Institute panel on unauthorized disclosure of
intelligence information, said the information had been run by the appropriate
members of the executive branch, who told the reporters they had no serious
problems with it. Many, he said, expected the information to leak. "We didn't put
that story out without calling a lot of people," Ensor said, "and they weren't
all in Congress."
Among the disclosures expected when the joint House-Senate Intelligence
Committee holds hearings is that U.S. agencies knew before Sept. 11 that
al Qaeda had previously considered using aircraft as weapons. The story was
cited by the panel's moderator, George Mason University professor and former CNN
Washington bureau chief Frank Sesno, who asked: "Shouldn't the public know
John Bellinger III, an attorney with the National Security Council,
acknowledged some officials' discomfort with the disclosures, but also
acknowledged cases in which information is vital for the public. Among his chief
concerns: Often, the disclosure of information also discloses the intelligence
community's means of acquiring it.
Members of the panel, including veteran journalists and Radio-Television News
Directors Association president Barbara Cochran, cited numerous instances in
which the media cooperated with the government in the interests of national
security and cautioned against overzealous secrecy.