Good leak, bad leak

Foreign Policy: There’s something troubling about the recent leaks to the New York Times about President Barack Obama’s involvement in authorizing the targeted killings of suspected terrorists and launching cyberattacks against an Iranian nuclear enrichment facility: they’re coming from the same administration that has prosecuted more government officials under the Espionage Act of 1917 for sharing classified information with the media than all previous administrations combined. (As Director of National Intelligence James Clapper wrote in a 2010 memo, “People in the intelligence business should be like my grandchildren — seen but not heard.”) Just this week, an American general who suggested that U.S. and South Korean Special Forces were parachuting into North Korea to conduct espionage was replaced in what the military insisted, amid murmurs of disbelief, was a routine personnel change.

This contradictory posture toward national security leaks has exposed the White House to accusations this week that it clamps down on whistleblowing when the disclosures undermine its agenda but eagerly volunteers anonymous “senior administration officials” for interviews when politically expedient. Salon’s Glenn Greenwald condemned the “administration’s manipulative game-playing with its secrecy powers,” the Washington Post‘s Charles Krauthammer called the report on Obama’s targeted killings a “White House press release” (the report’s authors dispute that claim), and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle decried the “accelerating pace of such disclosures,” calling for an investigation and new legislation to address the problem. “They’re intentionally leaking information to enhance President Obama’s image as a tough guy for the elections,” Senator John McCain (R-AZ) charged on Tuesday.

The White House, for its part, has dismissed this allegation as “grossly irresponsible” and argued that, in fact, it seeks to plug leaks that could jeopardize counterterrorism or intelligence operations. But as the examples below suggest, the Obama administration hardly has dealt consistently with counterterrorism and intelligence leaks over the past three-and-a-half years. [Continue reading…]

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