King Op-ed: Stop these dangerous whispers
Obama says he despises leaks, but they still go on
NY Daily News — by Rep. Peter T. King (R-NY)
In his press conference on Friday, President Obama said that recent leaks “touch on critical issues of war and peace, and they’re classified for a reason: because they’re sensitive, and because the people involved may in some cases be in danger if they’re carrying out some of these missions.”
The President is right about that.
He also said that the “notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive. It’s wrong. ”
The record tells a different story.
The New York Times recently devoted 9,000 words to profiles of President Obama. The articles divulged what are described as America’s most successful intelligence programs. They include details of CIA drone strikes against Al Qaeda, and an apparent U.S.-Israeli cyberoperation against Iran’s nuclear program.
The articles cite Situation Room conversations, quote officials such as Vice President Biden and place reelection campaign chief David Axelrod in counterterrorism meetings.
These leaks come on the heels of disclosures about an alleged penetration of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Last month, I urged FBI Director Robert Mueller to conduct a full inquiry into the leaks about this operation, and to include investigating the White House staff. The FBI responded by saying that “leaks threaten ongoing operations and damage our relationships with our foreign partners…leaks can put the lives of sources at risk, which also makes it difficult to recruit sources.”
Last year, leaks about the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden began on the day after its completion. These disclosures may well have endangered special operations and may have resulted in the arrests of alleged CIA sources, including a Pakistani doctor and others.
These leaks further extended to 16 meetings between moviemakers and Pentagon, CIA and National Security Council officials. These meetings, urged by the White House and arranged by Democratic-leaning lobbyists, remain under investigation by the Pentagon’s inspector general.
And these were not the first serious compromises of sensitive information during the Obama administration.
Earlier leaks included information about the suspect in the attempted Times Square bombing, which the suspect heard, leading him to flee, endangering police who raced to capture him.
Information was leaked about Al Qaeda’s December 2009 attack on the CIA’s base in Khost, Afghanistan, causing pain to fallen officers’ survivors and embarrassment to an ally.
And someone in the administration has revealed information about Israeli capabilities and intentions regarding Iran, shared with us in confidence.
This administration has been careless with intelligence secrets from the start.
Almost its first action was to release details of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program, which former CIA Director and current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta admits helped lead to finding Bin Laden. The decision to release this information denied future Presidents the option of using these tools to save American lives.
I support the most aggressive strategies to secure our homeland and to counter Iran. The President deserves full credit for killing Bin Laden and for other inevitably public successes.
Let me be clear: What I object to is the exposure of intelligence programs to journalists favored by the White House, and even Hollywood movie producers, in what I can only interpret as attempts to aid the President’s reelection.
On Friday, the President concluded his remarks about leaks by saying that, “We’re dealing with issues that can touch on the safety and security of the American people, our families or our military personnel or our allies, and so we don’t play with that.”
But members of your administration appear to have done just that, Mr. President.
That is why I called for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate these life-threatening leaks.
Attorney General Eric Holder cannot seriously be trusted to pursue crimes that may implicate senior officials in the administration. On Friday, he announced that two U.S. attorneys were selected to lead an investigation into the leaks. It is vital that this investigation be thorough and independent of Justice Department control.
While the administration has rightfully initiated an unprecedented number of leak prosecutions, these are all centered around nonpolitical, career employees who have, for the most part, leaked information having no direct bearing on the President.
The intelligence, law enforcement and military personnel who defend us, and the human sources who take great risks on our behalf, on the assurance that we will do our best to protect their security and identities, deserve no less.
King, a U.S. congressman, represents parts of Nassau and Suffolk counties. He is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and a member of the Intelligence Committee.