New York Times reporter David Sanger just got the plug of a lifetime for his new book Confront and Conceal even though it came from someone who wishes it was never published. This morning, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee, tells The San Francisco Chronicle she's more than halfway done with Sanger's book, which details classified information about U.S. cyber weapons. The verdict thus far? "You learn more from the book than I did as chairman of the intelligence committee," she told columnist Debra Saunders, "and that's very disturbing to me."
That's quite the statement, given the extraordinary intelligence access granted to someone in Feinstein's position. The Senate Intelligence Committee, by law, is kept "fully and currently informed" of U.S. intelligence activities including "covert actions and any significant intelligence failure." And that's just for your average committee members. Under certain circumstances, when the national security intelligence is extremely sensitive, the White House can restrict access to the committee but still has to divulge covert activities to the chairman and vice chairman and their equivalents on the House intelligence committee.
So which aspect of the book contained information Feinstein was unaware of? It's not clear from her talk with the Chronicle but she did tell CNN last week that when she read the part of Sanger's book excerpted in The New York Times "my heart dropped" adding "he wove a tapestry that has an impact that is beyond any single one thing." That excepted portion of the book, of course, made huge headlines because it confirmed for the first time that the U.S. and Israel were responsible for the Stuxnet cyber attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, the most sophisticated state-sponsored cyber attack in history. It also detailed step-by-step moments in the Situation Room with President Obama and national security officials, which is partly the reason members of Congress are accusing the White House of leaking the story. Regardless, we can't think of a better selling point for a book than it will tell you state secrets not even the highest ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee was given access to. Best seller list, here we come?