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President Obama loves leaks, despises whistleblowers
With the revelation that the Department of Justice secretly obtained two months of The Associated Press’ telephone records and used security badge access records to track James Rosen’s visits to the State Department, along with a warrant to search Rosen’s personal emails, there has been a rush in the mainstream media to declare the DOJ’s actions to be part of what they claim to be President Obama’s aggressive pursuit of those who would leak secret information to the press.
For example, The Washington Post describes the DOJ’s investigation of AP as “part of a pattern in which the Obama administration has pursued current and former government officials suspected of releasing secret material. Six officials have been prosecuted, more than under all previous administrations combined.”
Meanwhile, The New York Times states that the investigation “comes against a backdrop of an aggressive policy by the Obama administration to rein in leaks. Under President Obama, six current and former government officials have been indicted in leak-related cases so far, twice the number brought under all previous administrations combined.”
The New York Times and The Washington Post are propagating a false narrative, one that depicts Obama as some sort of crusader hell bent on plugging all leaks. The reality is the Obama administration has either authorized or acquiesced to the leak of information that is deemed politically beneficial, while relentlessly investigating and prosecuting those who reveal information that reflects poorly on his administration and the U.S. government.
It is ironic that The Washington Post and The New York Times claim that the Obama administration has aggressively pursued leakers seeing that both media sources have happily provided Obama administration officials with anonymity so they can leak classified information favorable to the President without consequence.
Somehow, The Washington Posts’ June 1, 2012, report on the Obama administration’s use of cyber warfare must have slipped through the cracks at the White House and the DOJ. The Washington Post reported that the U.S. and Israel were behind Stuxnet, the cyberattack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Prior to this report, there had been speculation that the U.S. and Israel were behind the attack, but no official confirmation. Confirmation was provided to The Washington Post by an official “speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe the classified effort code-named Olympic Games.”
These cracks must be enormous to have let the three dozen current and former Obama administration officials who contributed to The New York Time’s expose on drones slip through them. On May 29, 2012, The New York Times revealed that Obama maintains a ‘Kill List’ and that he counts all military-age males killed in drone strikes as combatants unless proven innocent posthumously. Regarding the president’s indiscriminate counting method, one official “requested anonymity to speak about what is still a classified program.”
Meanwhile, the Obama administration has charged six whistle-blowers, a term apparently not in The New York Times’s or The Washington Post’s editorial vocabulary, under the Espionage Act. These six individuals have revealed government waste, fraud, and abuse, acts of aggression, torture and war crimes. Yet, it is those who have revealed the criminal activity that have suffered prosecution by the Obama administration while those who actually committed the crimes have gone unpunished.
On Feb. 22, 2012, in response to Obama’s deserved glowing praise of journalists in Syria, Jake Tapper asked White House press secretary Jay Carney, “How does that square with the fact that this administration has been so aggressively trying to stop aggressive journalism in the United States by using the Espionage Act to take whistle-blowers to court?”
The Obama administration has sent a clear message. Government officials and journalists who wish to work together to create news stories through the leak of classified information that portray the president and his administration in a positive light should have no fear. And to the journalists and whistle-blowers thinking about publishing that other kind of classified information, be prepared to have your emails read, your phones tapped without your knowledge and your life and career turned upside down.
Bachman is a professorial lecturer in Human Rights at the School of International Service at American University.