Last week another scandal exploded into the news, when Edward Snowden, a former tech contractor and CIA employee, admitted that he leaked classified details about a National Security Agency spy program. Code named PRISM, this program involved, in part, the “broad monitoring” and collection of phone records and other data from the American people.
Why kind of data? Video and voice chats, videos, photos, voice over IP conversations, file transfers, login notifications and social networking details–all were collected and analyzed.
“I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under,” Snowden explained in an interview with The Guardian.
My initial view on these matters is that, whether or not the intelligence activity is illegal or unconstitutional, we must carefully examine what the Obama administration is up to. Why? Because the Obama crew too often lies and violates the public trust on national security matters.
Now Mr. Snowden, who is reportedly hiding away in Hong Kong, faces criminal prosecution and the Obama administration is wasting no time in pursuing accountability. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The Justice Department … said it had started a criminal investigation ‘into the unauthorized disclosure of classified information by an individual with authorized access.'”
This is the same DOJ that seized the records of Associated Press reporters in a DOD leak investigation, a decision AP President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Pruitt called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion”. The DOJ also obtained the records of FOX News based on the absurd claims, signed off on by Attorney General Holder, that Fox News reporter James Rosen was involved in some type of espionage conspiracy.
The Obama administration lately has demonstrated no patience for leaks–at least leaks that make it look bad.
Just contrast the Obama administration’s aggressive pursuit of justice against Snowden with the preferential treatment given to those involved in the leak of classified details about the bin Laden raid to the filmmakers behind Zero Dark Thirty, director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal.
Courtesy of the Project on Government Oversight, we learned that the Obama administration has been “sitting on a report” by the Office of Inspector General which concludes that the former CIA director and defense Secretary Leon Panetta leaked classified details to Zero Dark Thirty screenwriter Boal.
Former CIA Director Leon Panetta revealed the name of the Navy SEAL unit that carried out the Osama bin Laden raid and named the unit’s ground commander at a 2011 ceremony attended by “Zero Dark Thirty” filmmaker Mark Boal.
Panetta also discussed classified information designated as “top secret” and “secret” during his presentation at the awards ceremony, according to a draft Pentagon inspector general’s report published Wednesday by the Project on Government Oversight.
A source close to Panetta said Wednesday evening that he was unaware anyone without the proper security clearances was present at the event, which included both CIA and military personnel.
Does this not also represent an “unauthorized disclosure of classified information by an individual with authorized access?”
It would certainly seem so.
And in terms of whether this information could be harmful to our national security, the Obama administration is already on the record in the affirmative. In our related Freedom of Information (FOIA) lawsuit in the matter, Obama administration lawyers disclosed in sworn court documents that sensitive information released to the filmmakers for Zero Dark Thirty, could cause an “unnecessary security and counterintelligence risk” if released to the public.
If you’d like some more background on Judicial Watch’s bin Laden leaks investigation, click here. JW previously obtained records from the DOD and the CIA regarding meetings and communications between the government agencies and the filmmakers in preparation for the film. We demonstrated that the Obama administration was actively seeking to have high visibility in bin Laden related projects ostensibly to help the president’s approval ratings in an election year.
And our work on the bin Laden raid leaks led to a criminal referral to the DOJ against Undersecretary Mike Vickers (who also disclosed the name of one of the Navy SEALS) that went nowhere, as far as I can tell.
So let’s review.
One the one hand, Obama administration officials release classified details they admit could be harmful to national security to filmmakers making a blockbuster movie that portrays Obama as a “gutsy” Commander-in-Chief. It appears the then-CIA director himself is implicated in the leaks. The government conducts an investigation (at the request of the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Peter King) and then stonewalls the completion and release of the report (like the IRS report on the targeting of conservatives, well past the November elections). So far there has been zero action taken by the administration to hold the leakers to account.
On the other hand, a contractor leaks information about an intelligence program that almost everyone in Washington assumed was in place and this low-level leaker is subject to almost immediate prosecution.
Politico hits the nail on the head: “Word that Panetta, a key member of Obama’s national security team, might have been responsible for improper disclosures without encountering any known repercussions comes as the administration faces questions over the fairness of the aggressive anti-leak investigations and prosecutions being mounted by the Justice Department.”
And what does the administration have to say for itself?
White House spokesman Jay Carney had no response. He claimed to be unaware of the report, but said he’d look into it. In 2011, Carney exercised no such discretion, blindly labeling Rep. King’s suggestion that the administration leaked classified details to the filmmakers as “ridiculous” and “simply false.”
“We don’t discuss classified information,” he said.
Wrong again, Mr. Carney. You leak when the information suits your purposes and you stonewall when it does not. And that is the sort of selective transparency that has completely undermined the people’s trust in you, the president and his administration.