Behind the leaks on Flynn: American patriots | Moran

A furious President Trump is blaming leakers for the resignation of Michael Flynn, his national security advisor. And that raises this question: Would Flynn still be on the job if those leakers had kept quiet? If so, we owe the leakers nothing but gratitude....

Behind the leaks on Flynn: American patriots | Moran
A furious President Trump is blaming leakers for the resignation of Michael Flynn, his national security advisor. And that raises this question: Would Flynn still be on the job if those leakers had kept quiet?

If so, we owe the leakers nothing but gratitude. They risked their jobs, and even jail, to expose wrongdoing at the highest level of our national security operations. There is a word for that kind of behavior: Patriotism, the love of and devotion to country.

It comes in many forms. The soldiers and spies on the front line, first of all, along with the cops and firefighters who put their lives on the line. The volunteers for local ambulance crews, school boards, and soup kitchens. The teacher who goes the extra mile.

And yes, the bureaucrat who tells us when politicians lie to us, especially when that lie involves national security. Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, was a patriot. So was Deep Throat, who helped the Washington Post expose the Watergate scandal.

And so are those who exposed Flynn's contact with Russia. As long as the leakers are careful to protect agents in the field and needed secrecy on espionage tactics, they are doing us a favor when they expose official lies. At this stage, there is no indication these leaks broke those rules.

The White House spin on Flynn is that he was fired because he had lost the trust of Trump's senior team when he lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his contact with the Russian ambassador. Flynn had denied that he discussed sanctions imposed on Russia by President Obama over its meddling in the presidential election, and Pence went on to repeat that lie on national TV.

And yes, a national security advisor is supposed to be the referee who synthesizes the views of all departments, and presents the president with an honest menu of options. Without trust, that operation was bound to flounder.

But it wasn't just the lie; it's the content of his message to the Russian ambassador. Flynn, according to sources who revealed this contact to the Washington Post, signaled that the Trump administration might lift the sanctions imposed by President Obama over Russia's meddling in our election.

That is beyond disturbing, and made far worse by the fact that Trump himself received an FBI briefing on the conversation. Trump knew that Flynn was lying, and yet kept him on the job, without telling even Pence.

Trump wanted to keep this secret, and has issued a stream of furious tweets about the leaks. We're still waiting for a sign that he's angry about Flynn's lies, or his moves to appease Russia. No sign of that at Thursday's press conference.

In the meantime, let's give it up for the leakers. Ellsberg, a government contractor, tipped the debate over the Vietnam War and cut short the bloodshed. Deep Throat, the FBI man Mark Felt, helped expose Nixon's high crimes.

The leaks over Flynn fit into that proud tradition. His early retirement is a blessing to the nation.

More: Tom Moran columns 

Tom Moran may be reached at tmoran@starledger.com or call (973) 836-4909. Follow him on Twitter @tomamoran. Find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.

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