Although I disagreed with the primary thrust of Dana Priest’s book, The Mission: Waging War and Keeping Peace with America’s Military, there is little doubt that she is one of the best intelligence and defense correspondents in the business.
In her book, Priest comes to the conclusion that the only entity in the great sphere of American institutions that can build nations and civil societies as well as topple the world’s bad guys is the American military. She is absolutely right that the Department of Defense is becoming the “do it all” institution, but that does not mean it should be that way. In fact, I feel it’s important that it not.
She argues that America’s defense attaches are our de facto diplomats and that there is no institution with the teeth, budgets and deep personnel capacity to do the nation-building work that a world with more failing states needs. My view is that we have to build that capacity outside of the Department of Defense and become more attuned to the fact that the Pentagon’s security deliverables have been declining, not increasing, with greater budgets and responsibility.
But I was very pleased to host Dana Priest when her book first came out for a genuine discussion about the issues she provoked. And I’ve been impressed by the quality and temerity of her work since.
Among her many news coups, Dana Priest broke the story on secret detention centers in Europe, and while Republican Senators tried to knife each other in the back for being “the leak” to the press, TWN was able to establish that Priest’s sources on that story were many — and that what positioned her on it was two years of diligent, tough investigative work.
As I also wrote recently, she and Washington Post colleague Mike Allen were also at the front of the pack of those journalists getting insider administration operatives to tell much of what Karl Rove and Scooter Libby were up to in outing Valerie Plame’s CIA identity. As I wrote, it’s clear that the insider who cooperated with Priest and Allen has not yet publicly surfaced — either in Fitzgerald’s indictment materials or statements, or in any other journalistic reporting on the Plame investigation.
I think that there is much that can be learned from an encounter with Dana Priest and encourage those interested to engage her.
Priest will be on line today in a Washington Post forum at 12:30 p.m. eastern. Click here to get the information on how to participate in a discussion with her about these national security and intelligence issues.
— Steve Clemons