Commentary Magazine


Topic: intelligence leaks

Obama “Offended” by WH Leak Allegations

President Obama is crying foul against allegations that White House officials leaked classified information to the media for political gain, insisting that the White House would never “purposely” pass on classified secrets. The Hill reports:

“The notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive,” Obama said. “It’s wrong, and people I think need to have a better sense of how I approach this office, and the people around me approach this office.” …

Obama said the White House has “mechanisms in place” to “root out” people who leak national security information.

“When this information or reports, whether true of false, surface on the front page of newspaper — that makes the jobs of folks on the front lines tougher, and it makes my job tougher, which is why my attitude has been zero tolerance for these type of leaks and speculation,” Obama said.

As Politico’s Josh Gerstein suggests, the “purposely” qualifier sounds like an escape hatch. Obama didn’t deny that the White House released the information, just that it was not done intentionally or with a purpose in mind.

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President Obama is crying foul against allegations that White House officials leaked classified information to the media for political gain, insisting that the White House would never “purposely” pass on classified secrets. The Hill reports:

“The notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive,” Obama said. “It’s wrong, and people I think need to have a better sense of how I approach this office, and the people around me approach this office.” …

Obama said the White House has “mechanisms in place” to “root out” people who leak national security information.

“When this information or reports, whether true of false, surface on the front page of newspaper — that makes the jobs of folks on the front lines tougher, and it makes my job tougher, which is why my attitude has been zero tolerance for these type of leaks and speculation,” Obama said.

As Politico’s Josh Gerstein suggests, the “purposely” qualifier sounds like an escape hatch. Obama didn’t deny that the White House released the information, just that it was not done intentionally or with a purpose in mind.

Meanwhile, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers is hinting he has information the administration had relaxed rules on classified information for some in the media:

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) stopped short of asserting that the leaks were politically motivated, but he said the administration had decided to share some classified information with the media.

“The committee has materials suggesting that agencies were instructed to expand the scope of classified information they gave to the press. We know in some cases someone from a segment of the media was present in a classified setting,” Rogers said.

Republicans are continuing to call for an independent investigation, and the normally tough-on-leakers Obama administration is still stonewalling the idea.

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WH Faces Pressure About Leaks

The White House may have gotten some flattering New York Times scribbles about Obama’s unparalleled machismo on national security, but it sounds like it could soon face an independent investigation into its intelligence leaks as a result. House and Senate intelligence committees from both parties held a press conference this afternoon excoriating the Obama administration for leaking sensitive intelligence to the media and calling for a major crackdown. HuffPo reports:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said she and her fellow lawmakers are not voicing concerns as a way of “finger-pointing at anybody,” including the White House. “What we’re trying to do is say we have a problem and we want to stop that problem,” she said. “We’re not finger-pointing.”

Feinstein, joined by Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), promised new legislation to crack down on leaks of classified information, The issue has gained traction since the publication of two front-page New York Times stories last week providing new details about President Barack Obama’s secret terrorist “kill list” and the U.S. government’s cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

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The White House may have gotten some flattering New York Times scribbles about Obama’s unparalleled machismo on national security, but it sounds like it could soon face an independent investigation into its intelligence leaks as a result. House and Senate intelligence committees from both parties held a press conference this afternoon excoriating the Obama administration for leaking sensitive intelligence to the media and calling for a major crackdown. HuffPo reports:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said she and her fellow lawmakers are not voicing concerns as a way of “finger-pointing at anybody,” including the White House. “What we’re trying to do is say we have a problem and we want to stop that problem,” she said. “We’re not finger-pointing.”

Feinstein, joined by Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), promised new legislation to crack down on leaks of classified information, The issue has gained traction since the publication of two front-page New York Times stories last week providing new details about President Barack Obama’s secret terrorist “kill list” and the U.S. government’s cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

For now they’re focused on getting through some legislation to combat administration leaks, whatever good that will do. If they really want to prevent future blabbing from the White House, a credible investigation is the best way to start. The FBI has already launched a probe, but there are concerns about its legitimacy, according to Rep. Rogers (via Politico):

Rogers said the bipartisan presence spoke to the seriousness of the issue. Of the leaks, he said: “It seems to be a pattern that is growing worse and more frequent. … Their inability to keep a secret, this has been as serious a problem as I have seen.”

Rogers also raised the possibility some of the leaks could be coming from the Justice Department or FBI. The Justice Department’s national security division has recused itself from part of the leak investigation, Rogers said.

“It appears the sources of these leaks could be in a position to influence the investigations,” he said.

Republicans are already calling for a special counsel to be appointed to the case, an idea that was oddly supported by David Axelrod on CNN today. He may have to eat those words, as The Hill reports the White House has since rejected the idea of a special counsel investigation:

In response to a direct question, Carney said “no,” the president would not agree to an independent counsel. But Carney said the president took the issue of the leaks “very seriously.”

“This is something that the president insists that his administration take all appropriate and necessary steps to prevent leaks of classified information or sensitive information that could risk our counterterrorism operations,” Carney told reporters on Air Force One, according to a transcript.

An investigation like that could turn into a public relations nightmare for the administration — and is it all really worth the two-minute PR glow that has already faded?

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