The announcement of a Justice Department investigation into a flurry of high-level leaks that have compromised U.S. national security has done nothing to allay concerns in Congress. As the probe moves forward, one thing is clear: The White House needs to get its story straight.
On Friday, President Obama claimed everyone agreed that the leaks did not come from the White House. “As I think has been indicated from these articles, whether or not the information they’ve received is true,” he said, “the writers of these articles have all stated unequivocally that they didn’t come from this White House.” On Sunday, Obama political guru David Axelrod parroted this line, telling ABC News’ “This Week,” “I think the authors of all of this work have said that the White House was not the source of this information. I can’t say that there weren’t leaks. There were obvious leaks, but they weren’t from the White House.”
These zingers call into question whether Mr. Obama and Mr. Axelrod have read the reports to which they were referring. A May 29 New York Times article by Jo Becker and Scott Shane on Mr. Obama’s involvement in compiling the “kill list” for drone strikes noted, “in interviews with The New York Times, three dozen of his current and former advisers” were consulted. A June 1, 2012, New York Times article by David E. Sanger vividly described a dramatic scene in the White House situation room in which Mr. Obama and his top advisors discuss the Stuxnet computer virus, a description that could only have been first-hand. The author cites sources such as “current and former” administration officials, “experts inside and outside the government,” and “internal Obama administration estimates” of the effectiveness of the program. Mr. Sanger told CNN, “Did I talk to a lot of people in the administration? Of course.”
The Stuxnet story has become more intriguing because of reports that the Obama administration exaggerated its role in the cyberwar against Iran. An article in the Israeli press indicates that the Jewish State had taken the lead in the initiative and convinced a reluctant Obama administration to join in later. “We know that it is the presidential election season,” an anonymous Israeli intelligence source said, “and don’t want to spoil the party for President Obama and his officials, who shared in a twisted and manipulated way some of the behind-the-scenes secrets of the success of cyberwar.” This comes on the heels of a disastrous series of leaks about actions to infiltrate al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula to obtain information about a new underwear bomb. The narrative was pitched to media as a CIA operation but was in fact a British-Saudi effort which afterwards had to be shut down because of the damage caused by U.S. leaks.
Whether the Justice Department inquiry will seriously try to nail down the source of the leaks remains to be seen, and Attorney General Eric H. Holder’s team definitely does not have the legitimacy of an independent counsel. Given strong bipartisan concern on Capitol Hill, the White House can expect separate congressional investigations. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King, New York Republican, called the recent revelations, “the most shameful cascade of leaks” he had ever seen and pointed a finger at the National Security Council. He alleged that the leaks were orchestrated to make Mr. Obama “look like John Wayne.” That’ll be the day.
The Washington Times