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TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Public gets information from government leaks

"Top Secret" is government's way of sometimes hiding embarrassing facts from the public that are not necessarily matters of national security.

The Justice Department, on behalf of the Bush administration, targeted U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, as the source of a leak concerning lax security the day before Sept. 11, 2001.

After a lengthy investigation, the Senate Ethics Committee apparently is ending the case without citing the senator or anyone.

Whether the senator leaked the information to two television networks or someone else did the job, it was information the public deserved.

The National Security Agency intercepted two messages in Arabic on Sept. 10 but didn't translate them until Sept. 12, the day after three hijacked jetliners flew into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

What did the messages say?

"The match begins tomorrow," one said.

"Tomorrow is zero day," the other read.

Chilling words considering the attacks may have been the worst ever on American soil.

The administration argued that disclosing the information tipped off terrorists that our guys compromised their channels of communication.

Perhaps so, but it also alerted the American people to the fact that our national security was extremely lax the day before the attacks.

There is only circumstantial evidence that the senator, who was vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee at the time, disclosed the information, and that wasn't good enough to blame the senator.

Even if it had been, the public deserved to know. Being worried about compromising intelligence the day after Sept. 11, is like locking the barn door after thieves steal the horse.

The government targeting of Shelby was about cover-up, not security.

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