An even better question: do they want to keep secrets? Adam Levine analyzes the Stuxnet leak, as well as other recent leaks, and asks why this administration has suddenly turned into a sieve:
The level of detail spilling out through media reports about crucial national security operations is raising the question of whether President Barack Obama’s administration can keep a secret – or in some cases even wants to.
In just the past week, two tell-all articles about Obama’s leadership as commander-in-chief have been published, dripping with insider details about his sleeves-rolled-up involvement in choosing terrorist targets for drone strikes and revelations about his amped-up cyber war on Iran.
Each article notes the reporters spoke to “current and former” American officials and presidential advisers, as well as sources from other countries.
“This is unbelievable … absolutely stunning,” a former senior intelligence official said about the level of detail contained in the cyberattack story.
The official noted that the article cited participants in sensitive White House meetings who then told the reporter about top secret discussions. The article “talks about President Obama giving direction for a cyberweapons attack during a time of peace against a United Nations member state.”
The article follows on the heels of what many considered dangerous leaking of details about a mole who helped foil a plot by al Qaeda in Yemen. The revelations of the British national threatened what was described at the time as an ongoing operation.
Is this really such a mystery? The White House has been leaking classified material for over a year, as long as it make Obama himself look awesome. The most ridiculous part of this particular leak is that the cyberattack plan came from the Bush administration and their partnership with Israel; Obama wisely chose to continue the program, but didn’t originate it. The leakers made sure that the New York Times and Washington Post gave Obama the headlines, though, mentioning Bush’s involvement only as a subsidiary fact to Obama’s alpha-male status.
This leak will complicate matters for the next administration, as CNN explains below. Now that we’ve committed acts of cyberwarfare and have begun bragging about it, allies with more vulnerability than the US — such as Israel — might think twice about assisting us in the future. It’s almost certainly going to complicate whatever negotiations take place with rogue nations in the future that might otherwise be inclined to reform. But hey, as long as Obama can make himself look good, then why worry, right?
Update: Senators Marco Rubio, Richard Burr, and Dan Coats blast the White House for their lack of discretion in today’s Washington Post:
Sitting in a prison cell in Pakistan is one of those foreigners who trusted us. Shakil Afridiserved as a key informant to the United States in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. This brave physician put his life on the line to assist U.S. efforts to track down the most-wanted terrorist in the world, yet our government left him vulnerable to the Pakistani tribal justice system, which sentenced him to 33 years for treason. The imprisonment and possible torture of this courageous man — for aiding the United States in one of the most important intelligence operations of our time — coincides with a deeply damaging leak in another case.
The world learned a few weeks ago that U.S. intelligence agencies and partners had disrupted an al-Qaeda plot to blow up a civilian aircraft using an explosive device designed by an affiliate in Yemen. This disclosure revealed sources and methods that could make future successes more difficult to achieve. The public release of information surrounding such operations also risks the lives of informants and makes it more difficult to maintain productive partnerships with other intelligence agencies. These incidents paint a disappointing picture of this administration’s judgment when it comes to national security.
The stakes are high: success or failure in our campaign to defeat plots by al-Qaeda. These leaks are inexcusable, and those responsible should be held accountable. FBI and CIA investigations are a good start, but more must be done to prevent intelligence disclosures of this magnitude.
The problem stems in part from the media’s insatiable desire for real-world information that makes intelligence operations look like those of filmmakers’ imaginations. That is understandable, but this hunger is fed by inexcusable contributions from current and former U.S. officials.