New Castle News

Mitchel Olszak

June 18, 2012

Mitchel Olszak: Washington has always been a land of leaks

NEW CASTLE — I am shocked, shocked to learn that an American administration may have leaked secret information that makes itself look good.

Actually, the previous sentence is sarcasm. Leaks from the White House happen all the time. Sometimes it’s done to boost a sitting president; sometimes its done to undercut critics.

But if there is a difference lately, it may be the parade of national security leaks that appear to create an aura of tough decisiveness around President Barack Obama.

These leaks tend to portray the president as heavily involved in key military and national security decisions, even going so far as to indicate he is giving the final word on drone strikes and other attacks designed to kill specific individuals.

This sort of revelation is unusual, in that presidents usually practice the fine art of plausible deniability. When bad things happen to America’s enemies, it’s just a big mystery how they occur.

So what’s going on with these leaks? Well, from a political standpoint, they appear to be designed to counter long-standing claims from the right that Republicans are resolute when dealing with overseas foes, while liberal Democrats are wishy-washy.

As the body count rises among al-Qaida’s leadership, it’s tough to make that scenario stick to Obama.

But whether the Ramboization of Barack Obama will make a difference in the general election is unclear. Some voters may see his actions as bold; others may dismiss the leaks as showboating.

Politics aside, however, there is the matter of how these leaks impact national security. Republicans charge they amount to serious damage to our capabilities in a dangerous world.

But do they?

Does confirmation that America is using drone strikes to take out al-Qaida in Pakistan and elsewhere really surprise anyone? Does it come as an astonishing revelation that a long-reported cyber attack on Iran’s nuclear program was launched by America?

Of course America can officially deny involvement in these matters. But such protestations of innocence fool no one who matters.

Perhaps the biggest secret given away by such leaks is that government keeps quiet far too often in the name of national security. Protect the real secrets and let common sense handle the rest.

One leak that may have damaging consequences involves reports that American and Saudi intelligence were able to infiltrate al-Qaida in Yemen with a double agent.

Obviously, that agent’s cover is blown and anyone associated with him may have been put in danger. That could hurt future espionage endeavors.

Federal prosecutors are now investigating these assorted leaks, but Republicans in Congress say an independent probe is needed.

Perhaps, but the Obama administration is notorious for its zealous prosecution of suspected leakers, at least when the information puts the White House in less-than-flattering light.

Just ask New Castle native and ex-CIA operative John Kiriakou, who faces federal charges of identifying an undercover agent involved in the interrogation (some would call it torture) of a key al-Qaida figure.

So will Obama go after the leakers who just happened to make him look good? Or will his administration give these leakers a pass?

And if that happens, what would that say about this president’s reputed toughness?

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Mitchel Olszak
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