Defense & National Security

Did White House leaks result in life sentence for Pakistani doctor?

Did White House leaks result in life sentence for Pakistani doctor?

Wikileaks soldier Bradley Manning has been behind bars since 2010, accused of releasing classified military information to the public. But what about the top administration officials cited anonymously in electrifying New York Times reports about drone strikes and cyberattacks?

Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member John McCain (R-Ariz) asked hard questions on the floor of the Senate Tuesday afternoon, calling for President Barack Obama to hold stem the flow of information from his administration or risk empowering enemies and alienating allies.

A May 29 NYT story, “Obama’s Secret Kill List,” cited “three dozen” of Obama’s advisers, past and present, while exhaustively detailing the president’s process of identifying terrorist targets for elimination. A June 1 Times report relied on information from anonymous members of Obama’s national security team to describe how the president called for cyberattacks on Iranian computer systems using the hacking software Stuxnet–information McCain said even he was not privy too.

McCain said he also feared leaks may have endangered a Pakistani doctor whose assistance prove crucial to the location and elimination of Osama bin Laden.

“The administration helped journalists similarly to publish some of the highly sensitive tactics, techniques and procedures,” McCain said. “This flurry of anonymous boasting possibly led to exposure of Dr. Shakil Afridi  whose public exposure led to his detention and 33-year sentence in Pakistan. Our friends are not the only ones who read the New York Times. Our enemies do too.”

The New York Times reported on Afridi’s role in the bin Laden sting first in July 2011.

It’s a serious charge, but McCain said he can’t see a way to explain the overgenerous information leaks except as a White House-sanctioned ploy to portray Obama as a strong and decisive leader in national security.

“Regardless of how politically useful these leaks may have been to the president, they have to stop,” McCain said, calling them “gratuitous and utterly self-serving.”

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) has agreed to hold a committee hearing to investigate the sources of these information leaks further, McCain said.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Vice Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, joined McCain in calling for the appointment of a special council designated to find the source of the classified information leaks and put a stop to them.

“These leaks are extremely harmful to military operations,” Chambliss said. “Not only do these leaks tell our enemies how we do our jobs…but with each leak our friends and allies are left to wonder how much they can trust us.”

Meanwhile, a number of Republican lawmakers have rushed to the aid of Afridi, the doctor who aided the U.S. and received a life sentence from the government of Pakistan.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) has introduced legislation that would award Afridi the Congressional Gold Medal for his aid and grant him American citizenship, while Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has joined Rohrabacher in calling for the U.S. to revoke the $2.2 billion authorized in aid to Pakistan. Paul has also authored a bill that would grant Afridi citizenship.

The Senate version of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act emerged from committee with a provision that would cut U.S. aid to Pakistan by $100 million for each year that Afridi remains behind bars.

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