As Commander-in-chief, President Obama has taken a firm approach to protecting our nation’s security and guarding information regarding operations that involve or affect our military and our allies. As the President has said, “we don’t play around with” the confidentiality, safety, and security of our military members, their families, and the American people.
But a new conservative Super PAC, Special Operations Speaks (SOS), is deploying Swift Boat tactics against the President by claiming that his administration is deliberately leaking national security information and risking American lives in the process. This founder of SOS, Larry Bailey, was one of the “cadre of veterans” who led the Swift Boat attacks against Sen. John Kerry in 2004.
But this manipulative and unfounded attack flies in the face of reality. President Obama has done more than any other administration to forcefully pursue and address leaks of classified national security information. Here are the facts:
The Obama administration has prosecuted twice as many cases under the Espionage Act as all other administrations combined.
Under the President, the Justice Department has prosecuted six cases regarding national security leaks.
Before he took office, federal prosecutors had used the Espionage Act in only three cases.
As the reporters who wrote the stories in question have continually made clear, the suggestion that President Obama’s White House has deliberately leaked information is simply untrue. One Reporter who wrote on purported sensitive programs for The New York Times said the idea that “the White House calls you up and says, ‘Why don’t you drop by. We’ll tell you about our most compartmentalized program’ … That doesn’t happen.” Another colleague called the idea that the White House had promoted the story “absurd.”
President Obama explained his approach on classified information:
The notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive. It’s wrong. And people I think need to have a better sense of how I approach this office and how the people around me here approach this office.
We’re dealing with issues that can touch on the safety and security of the American people, our families, or our military personnel, or our allies. And so we don’t play with that. And it is a source of consistent frustration, not just for my administration but for previous administrations, when this stuff happens. And we will continue to let everybody know in government, or after they leave government, that they have certain obligations that they should carry out.
The groups are spinning these attacks for the sole purpose of distorting the President’s record on national security. In fact, as the LA Times reports, a spokesperson for Special Operations OPSEC, one of the groups that is joining in on this smear campaign, has a record of publicly discussing sensitive intelligence matters and downplaying leaks under the Bush administration:
[Frank] Rustmann appeared on Fox News’ “Hannity and Colmes” in 2005 to discuss Valerie Plame Wilson, a covert CIA operations officer who was outed in July 2003 by members of the George W. Bush administration. A federal jury convicted I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who was chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, of four felony counts for his role in the crime.
Rustmann, who had supervised Plame during her early years at the CIA, argued on Fox that disclosing Plame’s name was not a significant breach of national security. He discussed details of her training, her career and her cover.
“It isn’t a big deal,” he said about the illegal disclosure of the covert officer’s name. “It was a light, nonofficial cover.”
Conjuring up a false attack about our nation’s security for the sole purpose of scoring political points against the President is wildly misleading and a clear disservice to Americans who deserve the facts about the President’s record on national security.