Did NSA Call Data Story Hurt Our National Security?

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," May 12, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Our other "Big Story" is the report that the NSA collected millions of phone call records. The president's pick to head the CIA went to Capitol Hill Friday to tell senators that the surveillance was lawful and worked only to protect the American people. But did the person or persons who leaked this story put our country at risk? Let's ask former deputy undersecretary of defense under the first President Bush, Jed Babbin.

So is this kind of information that appeared in USA Today on Thursday, does that put us at risk?

JED BABBIN, FORMER UNDERSECRETARY OF DEFENSE: It might or might not, John. It's not, I don't believe, as serious in any way as the previous major leaks such as the NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program or the CIA secret detention camps in Eastern Europe and southwest Asia.

We have had a lot of different kinds of programs like this that have been leaked from time to time, and they go back many years. So I am not really that upset about this as much as I was about the others.

But the problem we have here is the culture. The culture that allows these people to leak what they think they disagree with and up to this point, I have yet to see someone dragged off in handcuffs doing a perp walk. We need to put these people in jail.

GIBSON: Well why isn't that happening, Jed?

BABBIN: Well, I don't think there is the political will to do it. We know for at least oh, going on two years now that, for example, three Democrat senators were under criminal investigation for leaking a black satellite program. And why that has lingered, I don't know. I don't believe that the Justice Department is pursuing these things as vigorously as they should.

GIBSON: How would they? I mean, look, we know that Mary McCarthy was fired from the CIA for what appears to be the leak to the Washington Post about the string of secret CIA prisons. At this point, shouldn't she be under a criminal investigation?

BABBIN: Well, she should be. And the fact is, we are going to have to do some very distasteful things to find out to whom she leaked and actually if she was the leaker to start with. We know from the Fitzgerald investigation that reporters do not have a privilege.

So why isn't Dana Priest of The Washington Post in front of a grand jury forced to reveal her sources? Why isn't James Risen of The New York Times forced by a grand jury to reveal the sources of the NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program? The people who made these major leaks damaged national security, John. They should be doing hard time.

GIBSON: You know, Jed, the guy who is one of Risen's sources is known. He is a former NSA employee named Russell Tice. The FBI has been at his door knocking on his door. I have interviewed him a couple times on the radio. I just don't understand why something isn't moving on these people if these stories really do put us at some risk.

BABBIN: Well, I think that's a very good question. And from everything I know, from all of my sources in the Defense Department and in the intelligence world, outside the Defense Department, these things really did hurt us, no fooling.

So the question is why isn't somebody prosecuting? And if Russell Tice is the leaker of the NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program, why is he not in jail? I think Attorney General Gonzales should be answering that question.

GIBSON: All right. Jed Babbin, former deputy undersecretary of defense under the first President Bush, thanks.

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