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Why the White House leaks?

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On Monday, The New York Times and CBS News reported that 380 tons of high-grade explosives were missing from a munitions dump near Baghdad. Two days later, The Wall Street Journal editorial page expressed dark suspicion about why the loss of the explosives should come to light barely a week before the election. One might also express suspicion about why the missing explosives should have been kept secret.

The administration obviously has reason to keep bad news under wraps in this tense preelection period. Some bad news it can't do anything about, like higher fuel prices and lower stock prices. But it can hold its own secrets close to its chest; until, that is, someone inside is motivated to blow the whistle.

Last Saturday, 49 unarmed Iraqi National Guard recruits were massacred in Iraq. The American military said the coalition forces were not responsible. Tuesday, the American-backed interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi, charged "great negligence on the part of some coalition forces."

Last year, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wrote in an internal memo that the administration has no way of knowing whether it's winning the war on terror and he predicted a "long hard slog" in Afghanistan and Iraq. The gloomy assessment became known only after someone leaked it to USA Today.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, former top commander in Iraq, wrote in a memo last winter that the supply situation was so poor that it threatened his force's ability to fight. General Sanchez was replaced last summer. The memo leaked to The Washington Post last week. The administration, which has been scoffing at Senator Kerry's talk of the Iraq war costing $200 billion, is considering, after the election, asking for $70 billion more for Afghanistan and Iraq. That would raise the total to $225 billion. Somebody leaked that to The Washington Post.

Election or not, the administration seems unable to keep the lid on all its secrets. One only wonders what the public should know that it doesn't know yet.

Daniel Schorr is the senior news analyst at National Public Radio.


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