Republican senator Christopher (Kit) Bond of Missouri surely gave more farewell addresses – a half dozen, by my count – than anyone else who departed from Congress in 2010. He called them “legacy speeches.” They got little media attention, but his address on national security and intelligence should have. It was brimming with important advice.
Bond, first elected to the Senate in 1986, also gave a number of interviews, including one with me during the lame duck session of Congress just before Christmas. Among other things, he confirmed for the first time that Democratic senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York had punched him on the Senate floor when he opposed a new courthouse in Brooklyn, a pet project of Moynihan’s.
It was in 1992 and amounted to one punch from behind to the side of Bond’s head. Later, he and Moynihan became close friends, Bond told me. And funds for the courthouse were ultimately approved.
Bond spent the past eight years as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and thus “privy to our nation’s deepest secrets.” He learned, first and foremost, that leaks of highly classified intelligence information are far more damaging than is generally understood.
In 2005, the New York Times revealed the National Security Council’s warrantless wiretaps of suspected terrorists, the Terrorist Surveillance Program. “Some view leakers as heroes,” he said in his speech. “I do not share that view.”
Bond went on:
In fact, intelligence operators in the field at the time told me that their ability to gain valuable information was reduced dramatically [because of the Times story]. Michael Hayden, then director of the CIA, stated that we had begun to apply the Darwinian theory to terrorism because from then on we would only be catching the dumb ones. Frankly, I am amazed the Department of Justice has yet to prosecute Thomas Tamm, a DOJ attorney who openly bragged in a Newsweek article that he intentionally revealed information about this highly classified and compartmented program. Tamm and his fellow leakers are traitors who have done serious damage to our national security.
Bond said leakers should be punished severely. “There should be significant criminal, civil, and administrative sanctions that can be imposed on leakers,” he said. “Leakers should face significant jail time, pay heavy fines, forfeit any profits, lose their pensions, and be fired from their jobs.”
Leaks won’t stop, Bond insisted, “until a significant number of leakers have been appropriately punished.”
Since actual terrorists are the best source of intelligence, they should be captured rather than killed “if at all possible.” Bond expressed concern that “due to our lack of effective detention and interrogation policies today, our operators in the field feel compelled” to kill terrorists. “This,” he said, “is understandable.”
Bond believes clear rules should be set to prevent terrorists from being released from Guantanamo and returning to terrorist activity. “Our nation should not risk another Gitmo detainee rejoining the fight,” he said. “We cannot risk losing more and timely intelligence because we have no system for detaining and interrogating terrorists.”
Nor should terrorists be treated like common criminals. “We must abandon the automatic impulse to Mirandize terrorists captured inside the United States,” Bond said. Prosecution should “never take precedence over getting potential lifesaving intelligence.”
Eliminating sanctuaries should be “our number one goal” in the war on terrorism, he said. Pulling out of Afghanistan “in whole or in part…would lead to the establishment of more safe havens for many of the world’s most violent and feared terrorists.”
Bond is no fan of President Obama. In the last of his speeches, he said Obama’s announcement of this July as the date to begin troop withdrawals is “one of the greatest challenges, in my view, to the success of our efforts in Afghanistan.”
In an interview with the Kansas City Star, Bond gave the president “a bad C” grade for his first two years in the White House. He gave George W. Bush an A-minus, George H. W. Bush a B, Bill Clinton a B-plus, and Ronald Reagan an A.
Bond, by the way, announced two years ago that he would retire in 2010 after four terms in the Senate. He is 71.