Call this a tale of two very different leaks in the White House. Late yesterday, the Daily Beast’s Josh Rogin reported that a national-security official in the Obama administration had been abruptly fired after discovering that he’d been tweeting pseudonymously for more than two years. Jofi Joseph turned out to be the mysterious NatSecWonk, which has criticized the White House on numerous occasions and leaked sensitive information:
Jofi Joseph, a director in the non-proliferation section of the National Security Staff at the White House, has been surreptitiously tweeting under the moniker @natsecwonk, a Twitter feed famous inside Washington policy circles since it began in February, 2011 until it was shut down last week. Two administration officials confirmed that the mystery tweeter was Joseph, who has also worked at the State Department and on Capitol Hill for Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Joe Biden. Until recently, he was part of the administration’s team working on negotiations with Iran.
During his time tweeting under the @natsecwonk name, Joseph openly criticized the policies of his White House bosses and often insulted their intellect and appearance. At different times, he insulted or criticized several top White House and State Department officials, including former National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, Secretary of State John Kerry, and many many others.
The Daily Beast saved a long record of @natsecwonk’s tweets prior to the shutting down of his Twitter feed.
“I’m a fan of Obama, but his continuing reliance and dependence upon a vacuous cipher like Valerie Jarrett concerns me,” he once tweeted.
“Was Huma Abedin wearing beer goggles the night she met Anthony Wiener? Almost as bad a pairing as Samantha Powers and Cass Sunstein ….,” he tweeted on another occasion, insulting a top Clinton aide, a then Congressman, and two White House senior officials in one tweet.
Looks like the “vacuous wonk” won in this case. Joseph also spent considerable time ripping Republicans, including my good friend John Noonan (by going after his weight? Weak, dude), but the newsmaking tweets were the barbs aimed internally. Rogin notes that the identity of NatSecWonk surprised many in the foreign-policy community, because Joseph wasn’t just a low-level clerk. He had been a fairly significant figure in the Obama administration, demonstrated by his new assignment on Iran, plus his wife Carolyn Leddy “is a well-respected professional staffer on the Republican side of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,” according to Rogin.
That’s what happens when leaks make the White House look bad. But just as with any other administration, this White House has no trouble leaking information to make itself look good. Freedom Watch filed a FOIA request to determine just how much cooperation the White House gave New York Times reporter David Sanger for his work on his reporting on Stuxnet, and the answer is — a lot. Patrick Howley at the Daily Caller notes that the Stuxnet story played a lot better for Barack Obama:
White House and State Department officials cooperated extensively on background with a New York Times journalist during the period that he broke confidential national security information in a series of leaks that prompted outrage from lawmakers, according to unearthed 2011 and 2012 emails.
The nonprofit organization Freedom Watch, which obtained the internal State Department emails through a Freedom of Information Act request, believes that the Obama administration carried out the leaks to bolster a tough image for itself on Iran.
Then-Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Michael Hammer and other State Department employees arranged background interviews between New York Times chief Washington correspondent David Sanger and State Department officials between December 2011 and March 2012 for Sanger’s 2012 book “Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power.”
Sanger’s book included leaks of confidential national security information, including details of the computer worm Stuxnet that was used in a cyberattack against Iran. Sanger linked the worm to a U.S.-Israeli intelligence operation called “Operation Olympic Games” in a June 2012 New York Times article.
White House officials, including then-National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, began cooperating with Sanger before December 12, 2011.
“Yes, WH is cooperating, he has spent time with Donilon, others. They know he is looking to meet up with HRC and support,” Hammer wrote to his colleague Phillippe Reines in a December 12, 2011 email with the subject line “RE: Sanger.”
Something tells me that heads won’t be rolling for these self-serving leaks. Congress may look into whether the White House exposed classified material in an attempt to make Obama look tough on Iran as the 2012 elections approached, but don’t expect much to come from it. They have enough to investigate as it is now.