Probe Launched Over White House Intelligence Leaks

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Common Dreams

Probe Launched Over White House Intelligence Leaks

by
Common Dreams staff

President Barack Obama addressed the 'cascade of leaks' in the briefing room of the White House in Washington. (Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/AP)

In response to accusations this week that two recent high-profile news stories printed in The New York Times were based on leaks orchestrated from high-level White House officials, US Attorney General Eric Holder has announced the launch of two separate investigations to be conducted by the Department of Justice.

The announcement by Holder followed a public denial by President Obama during a Friday press appearance where he called suggestions that his staff would leak national secrets for political gain, "offensive."

One of the articles regarded the existence of a secret 'Kill List' and -- using information leaked from high-level but "unnamed" sources inside the administration -- reported that President Obama personally oversees the targeted assassination of suspected terrorists suspects, including US citizens living abroad. The other article, again citing official "anonymous" sources, revealed that Obama has directed a series of cyberattacks against the Iranian regime, a program that had never previously been acknowledged in official White House statements.

"The true test will be whether administration leakers who disclose classified information flattering to Obama are prosecuted on equal terms with whistleblowers who expose government corruption." --Glenn Greenwald

“The unauthorized disclosure of classified information can compromise the security of this country and all Americans, and it will not be tolerated,” Mr. Holder said in a statement. “The Justice Department takes seriously cases in which government employees and contractors entrusted with classified information are suspected of willfully disclosing such classified information to those not entitled to it, and we will do so in these cases as well.”

Investigations, however, as legal analyst and Glenn Greenwald points out, matter little if they do not lead to true accountability. The true test, Greenwald writes, "Will be whether administration leakers who disclose classified information flattering to Obama are prosecuted on equal terms with whistleblowers who expose government corruption."

On the point of whether or not the leaks were orchestrated for political gain, Greenwald only suggests that people look at the available record. Pointing to a piece by Jack Goldsmith at the lawfare blog, he asked his readers to review what's been "presented and decide for yourself if Obama’s denials are credible."

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The Associated Press: Holder appoints 2 US attorneys to lead leaks probe

Lawmakers have pointed to recent stories by The New York Times, The Associated Press and other news organizations that contain previously secret information and cite anonymous U.S. officials.

The strongest claims came Tuesday from Obama's 2008 election opponent, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

"They're intentionally leaking information to enhance President Obama's image as a tough guy for the elections," McCain said after taking to the Senate floor to list some of the alleged breaches. "That is unconscionable."

McCain called on the administration to appoint an outside special counsel to investigate.

In a statement Friday, McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Holder's decision "falls far short of what is needed" and repeated McCain's call for a special counsel.

The House Intelligence Committee chairman, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said his committee would formally investigate the leaks but that he was concerned about the level of cooperation he would get from two government agencies.

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The Guardian adds:

The attorney general, Eric Holder, announced that the investigations would be headed by two federal prosecutors, Ronald Machen Jr of Washington DC, and Rod Rosenstein of Maryland, who would be "fully authorised to prosecute criminal violations discovered as a result of their investigation".

The president dismissed allegations linking his administration to the leaks.

"The notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive," he told reporters, adding: "It's wrong and people need to have a better sense of how I approach this office."

Announcing the twin probes, Holder said: "The unauthorised disclosure of classified information can compromise the security of this country and all Americans and it will not be tolerated."

The secrets alleged to have been disclosed to the media have included reports on US cyber warfare against Iran, procedures for targeting militants with drones and the existence of a double agent who penetrated a militant group in Yemen.

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Glenn Greenwald: Probing Obama's Secrecy Game

What all of this reflects is the wildly excessive, anti-democratic secrecy behind which the U.S. Government operates, and the solution in the face of this growing controversy ought to be serious attempts to increase transparency and dilute the wall of secrecy. But that’s highly unlikely to happen. When people like Dianne Feinstein, Carl Levin and John McCain start digging their hands into these controversies, they reflexively do the opposite: they are devoted to always-increasing levels of government secrecy.

For Security State servants like these, secrecy is the currency on which their power, influence and self-importance depends: the more government actions which they know about but which are concealed from the citizenry, the more influential and unaccountable they are. So as is usually true when bipartisan groups of self-important Senators gather in common cause, they’re certain to make the core problem worse. In response to the genuine problem of selective leak-punishment by the Executive Branch, they will not try to increase transparency but will do the opposite: attempt to plug leaks, punish whistleblowers, and fortify U.S. Government secrecy powers even beyond where they are now.

Still, whatever else is true, what is completely intolerable is to allow this glaring double standard to continue. The prevailing rules under this administration are definitively corrupt: if you leak to expose government corruption and in the process embarrass political officials, then you are severely punished (whistleblowers); but if you leak to glorify the President and his highest-level advisers, then you are protected and rewarded (senior Obama officials).

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