Defense & National Security

Obama risks national security to secure his own re-election

Obama risks national security to secure his own re-election

Barack Obama will do anything for a vote. He’ll pander to narrow constituencies. He’ll attack churches. He’ll divide people by sex, race and class. He’ll blacklist news organizations. And he’ll evidently put America’s national security at risk in order to secure his own re-election.

The Senate has announced that it will investigate recently-revealed national security leaks to the media. But a special counsel should be appointed to find out the degree to which the White House was involved in the leaks of classified information about America’s counterterrorism operations.

In late May, Judicial Watch obtained documents revealing that national secrets were provided for a film on the Osama bin Laden raid. The filmmakers got access to high-ranking officials involved in the commando operation that killed bin Laden.

Soon after the raid, Defense Secretary Robert Gates publicly complained that the White House had breached an agreement not to disclose details about the mission. “A week ago Sunday, in the Situation Room, we all agreed that we would not release any operational details from the effort to take out bin Laden,” he said. “That all fell apart on Monday—the next day.”

Why would filmmakers get such unprecedented access? Here’s a clue: the film was initially scheduled for released on October 12—just in time for it to have in impact on the election.

Next came a New York Times story exposing the administration’s involvement in the production of the Stuxnet computer virus that was used to launch a cyber-attack against Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The story cited current administration officials and referenced conversations that Obama had with top advisers.

Then there was a story leaked to the press about the United States’ involvement in a disrupted bomb plot in Yemen. It involved a Saudi double agent who had infiltrated Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and thwarted an attack on an American jetliner. The information he gave helped launch a drone strike in Yemen that took out a key commander for AQAP.

The White House held a conference call about the thwarted plot that included former counterterrorism officials who are now paid commentators on cable news shows. That call involved White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, and it angered some on Capitol Hill because the administration had failed to inform key committees, including the Senate’s intelligence panel, about the bomb plot until after it had been reported in the media.

If information about the thwarted attack was leaked to the press, it probably also reached AQAP’s top bomb-maker, allowing him to find safety. He is still at large and likely training other bomb makers.

Finally, the New York Times recently ran a story detailing Obama’s weekly “kill list” meetings, in which White House officials routinely gave reporters information on drone strikes, usually on the condition of anonymity. David Axelrod, the president’s top political adviser, even sat in on the meetings.

All of these stories burnish Obama’s foreign policy image at a time when his image on just about every other issue area has been tarnished.

Reaction to the Obama administration’s leaks has been immediate, bipartisan, strong—and almost unanimously negative. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters, “This is like an avalanche. It is very detrimental and, candidly, I found it very concerning. There’s no question that this kind of thing hurts our country.”

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said, “A number of those leaks, and others in the last months about drone activities and other activities, are frankly all against national-security interests. I think they’re dangerous, damaging, and whoever is doing that is not acting in the interest of the United States of America.”

Many legislators see politics in the leaks. Rep. Peter King said, “It has to be for [Obama’s] reelection. They can deny it all they want. But it would require a suspension of disbelief to believe it’s not being done for political purposes.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said, “I don’t think you have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out what is going on here. You’ve had three leaks of intelligence that paint the president as a strong leader.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told CBS, “This is the most highly classified information and it’s now been leaked by the administration at the highest levels at the White House and that’s not acceptable.”

The administration has strongly denied politics played a role. White House Spokesman Jay Carney said, “Any suggestion that this administration has authorized intentional leaks of classified information for political gain is grossly irresponsible.”

But it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that the information was leaked intentionally given the access reporters had. The drone kill list piece, for instance, included interviews with three dozen of Obama’s current and former advisers.

McCain said all the leaked information, “makes the president look very decisive…[it] enhances President Obama’s image as a tough guy for the elections.”

A tough guy? That makes sense. Last month Obama was labeled the First Gay President for his public embrace of same-sex marriage. Then, after appearing on The View and making a speech at Barnard, an elite all-female university, columnists began referring to him as the First Female President. Obama’s image needed a boost of testosterone.

But it may backfire. House and Senate intelligence committees have announced plans to draft new laws against leaks of classified information. And Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and members of Congress called for an investigation of how the information got out.

But the White House should appoint a special counsel to investigate how this information was leaked, who’s responsible and whether politics was involved.

Remember early in Obama’s term when he said several times that he’d be comfortable as a one-term president? That was a lie. Obama has made it crystal clear he’ll do whatever he feels he must to win reelection—even, apparently, jeopardize America’s national security.

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