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Probing Obama’s Secrecy Games

Will high-level Obama officials who leak for political gain be punished on equal terms with actual whistleblowers?

This photo provided by the White House shows President Barack Obama meeting with his national security team on Afghanistan and Pakistan, Thursday, May 6, 2010. (Credit: AP/Pete Souza)Over the past several months, including just last week, I’ve written numerous times about the two glaring contradictions that drive the Obama administration’s manipulative game-playing with its secrecy powers: (1) at the very same time that they wage an unprecedented war on whistleblowers, they themselves continuously leak national security secrets exclusively designed to glorify Obama purely for political gain; and (2) at the very same time they insist to federal courts that these programs are too secret even to confirm or deny their existence (thereby shielding them from judicial review or basic disclosure), they run around publicly boasting about their actions. Just over the past month alone, they have done precisely this by leaking key details about Obama’s commanding role in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, drone attacks that have killed allegedly key Al Qaeda figures, sophisticated cyber-attacks on Iran’s nuclear program, and the selection of targets for Obama “kill list”: all programs that are classified and which the White House has insisted cannot be subjected to judicial review or any form of public scrutiny.

Official Washington is now noticing this systematic abuse, and they are at least making noises that they intend to do something about it. The two top members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Democrat Carl Levin and Republican John McCain, announced Senate hearings to investigate these high-level leaks. Democrat Dianne Feinstein, Chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, pronounced herself ”deeply disturbed by the continuing leaks,” (somewhat ironically) described a “classified letter” she sent Obama objecting to classified disclosures, and said she spoke to Levin “about the possibility of a joint hearing to investigate these leaks.” McCain accused the administration, with good reason, of leaking with the intent to “enhance President Obama’s image as a tough guy for the elections” and said the high-level leaks are a concerted “attempt to further the president’s political ambitions for the sake of his re-election at the expense of our national security”; McCain also called for the appointment of a Special Prosecutor, making this important argument:

He noted the “unacceptable” incongruity of prosecuting lower-level personnel such as Bradley ManningJeffrey Sterling or John Kiriakou for allegedly leaking classified information while holding senior officials blameless for what appear to be comparable offenses.

The fact that this administration would aggressively pursue leaks perpetrated by a 22-year-old Army private in the Wikileaks matter and former CIA employees in other leaks cases but apparently sanction leaks made by senior administration officials for political purposes is simply unacceptable,” Sen. McCain said.

It is indeed. But that’s how Washington justice, by definition, always works. Marginalized Muslims are imprisoned for decades for the most minimal contacts with designated Terrorist organizations, while high-powered D.C. officials openly receive large sums of money and become enthusiastic influence-peddlers and advocates for a Terror group with total impunity. Lynndie England is prosecuted and imprisoned for her low-level prisoner abuse, while the high-level government officials and lawyers who designed, authorized and implemented a worldwide torture regime are fully protected. Ordinary citizens who film abusive police conduct are arrested and prosecuted, while Bush officials and the nation’s telecom giants who systematically eavesdropped on Americans without the warrants required by law are immunized. Petty corner drug dealers and even users are imprisoned by the hundreds of thousands, while Wall Street criminals whose fraud caused a massive global economic crisis never see the inside of a courtroom, let alone a prison cell.

Read the full article with updates at Salon.com

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