Skip to main content

The Obama administration recently continued its campaign against so-called "leakers," who are more often than not whistleblowers, with the indictment of a record-breaking sixth person under the Espionage Act for alleged mishandling of classified information.

Obama's abhorrence for "leaks" apparently only applies to disclosures that expose embarrassing or negative aspects of the administration. At an online town hall - sponsored by adjust-your-privacy-expectations-downward Google - Obama defended the CIA's supposedly covert drone program:

“I want to make sure that people understand that drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties,” Obama replied. “For the most part, they have been very precise, precision strikes against al-Qaeda and their affiliates.”

The perception that “we’re just sending in a whole bunch of strikes willy-nilly,” Obama said, is incorrect. “This is a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists, who are trying to go in and harm Americans, hit American facilities, American bases and so on.”

“I think that we have to be judicious in how we use drones,” Obama added.

Obama has no qualms with speaking publicly about the drone program to assure us that not too many innocent people get killed. (I doubt civilians in northern Pakistan would agree nor would the family of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki - an innocent 16-year-old American killed by a drone as collateral damage and son of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, also targeted and killed in a separate drone strike.)

Despite Obama's candid defense of the glories of modern drone warfare, the Obama administration enthusiastically raises the curtain of secrecy whenever the public seeks information that will paint Obama's precious drones in anything but a heroic, American-life-saving light.

The Justice Department repeatedly claims that it can "neither confirm nor deny" the existence of the program in response to the public's requests for information. WaPo reports:

In a lawsuit last year, the American Civil Liberties Union said that the CIA’s refusal to release information about drone killings was illegal. When the CIA argued that even the “fact of the existence or non-existence” of such a program was classified, the ACLU responded that then-CIA Director Leon E. Panetta had spoken openly of U.S. “hits” and “strikes” against al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan.

My organization, the Government Accountability Project, got the same response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the secret Justice Department memo rationalizing the assassination of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki with a drone strike, despite the fact that the New York Times described the memo in detail on the front page.  

Dealing with Obama's acknowledgment of a program the Obama administration has tried to avoid "confirming or denying," the Washington Post reports that White House spokesman Jay Carney,  

suggested that nothing Obama had said could be a security violation: “He’s the commander in chief of the armed forces of the United States. He’s the president of the United States.”

In other words, if whistleblowers disclose waste, fraud, abuse, illegality or just plain embarrassing information, they can expect to be labeled an enemy of the state and criminally prosecuted under the Espionage Act, but, if the President does it, it's not illegal.

UPDATE: According to CNN, an anonymous administration official is now backing Carney's statements that Obama did not "make a mistake" when discussing the drone program.

A senior administration official is denying to CNN that President Obama made a mistake in publicly revealing what had been classified information about U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan.

The official downplayed the significance of what happened, pointing out that what the president said was widely known. The president, the official said was making the point that the drone missions are “precise” and “targeted to avoid casualties.”

To summarize, we have an anonymous senior administration official reinforcing what a White House Spokesperson said Obama meant when Obama publicly discussed a secret program that the Justice Department "can neither confirm nor deny." Am I the only one confused?

The problem of such absurd secrecy is not lost on anyone writing about the drone program. The New York Times reported:

The secrecy has prevented an open debate on legal and ethical questions surrounding the strikes, since neither intelligence officials nor members of Congress can speak openly about them.

The ACLU had another take on the purpose of the ridiculous secrecy - to avoid Court oversight:

In the wake of Obama’s comments, “it becomes more and more absurd to say that this is a covert program, a secret program,” said ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer. “There is nobody left in the United States or in Pakistan or in Yemen,” where drone strikes have also been conducted, “who doesn’t know about this.”

“At this point,” Jaffer said, “the only consequence of pretending that it’s a secret program is that the courts don’t play a role in overseeing it.”

A functioning democracy requires an informed public, not one that relies on Executive branch talking points, selective authorized leaks from "anonymous administration officials," and the occasional presidential off-the-cuff remark.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Um, yes. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BenderRodriguez, doroma, lcj98, FG
    Dealing with Obama's acknowledgment of a program the Obama administration has tried to avoid "confirming or denying," the Washington Post reports that White House spokesman Jay Carney,  

       suggested that nothing Obama had said could be a security violation: “He’s the commander in chief of the armed forces of the United States. He’s the president of the United States.”

    In other words, if a whistleblowers disclose waste, fraud, abuse, illegality or just plain embarrassing information, they can expect to be labeled an enemy of the state and criminally prosecuted under the Espionage Act, but, if the President does it, it's not illegal.

    That's correct.  The President has an unlimited right to disclose national security information directly or by delegation, subject only to his Constitutional oath.  Whistleblowers may only disclose information--certain kinds of information, and to certain recipients--pursuant to the provisions of relevant laws.  That you consider this unjust is the generic lament that some people have it better than you.  

    But nobody's buying flowers from the flower lady.

    by Rich in PA on Wed Feb 01, 2012 at 06:14:43 AM PST

    •  The Executive Branch (10+ / 0-)

      should not use the classification system to cover up what it wants to keep secret while out of the other side of its mouth selective "leaking" talking points favorable to Executive branch policies. It undermines the entire system and calls into question even properly-classified information.

      TRAITOR: The Whistleblower and the "American Taliban" - please "like" at http://www.traitorbook.com/

      by Jesselyn Radack on Wed Feb 01, 2012 at 06:42:25 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  That's trivializing it (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Woody, chipmo, aliasalias
      That you consider this unjust is the generic lament that some people have it better than you.

      Nobody's playing basketball with the president here and complaining that he's too tall. It's about the possibility of serious abuse of power. I mean, it doesn't matter whether Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was "innocent" or not (what does that even mean, applied to a 16-year-old?); we'll never know, because he has been murdered, and the discussion walled off by the system of information classification.

      It's not only the case that the president seems to be able to classify and declassify information at will without going through any formal procedures; it's also that case that

      (a)  In no case shall information be classified, continue to be maintained as classified, or fail to be declassified in order to:
      (1)  conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error;

      (2)  prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency;

      (3)  restrain competition; or

      (4)  prevent or delay the release of information that does not require protection in the interest of the national security. (2009 Executive Order on Classified Information)


      The real problem is that the president's unlimited authority makes these necessary rules a joke.

      President Obama's abuse of the system is of course very minor in comparison to that of the Bush/Cheney years (and no, it won't stop me from voting for him, unprincipled as that may sound). But it is still abuse and it needs to be called out.

  •  Orwell predicted all of this (9+ / 0-)

    Orwell was slightly off on the timing. Here 1984 began with the failed 2000 election.

    "The Global War on Terror" is straight out of 1984. The drone strikes are a modern update of Orwell's descriptions.

    look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

    by FishOutofWater on Wed Feb 01, 2012 at 06:17:23 AM PST

    •  And 2008 Did Nothing To Slow It Down.... (5+ / 0-)
      Here 1984 began with the failed 2000 election.

      Existence is no more than the precarious attainment of relevance in an intensely mobile flux of past, present, and future.~~~ Susan Sontag

      by frandor55 on Wed Feb 01, 2012 at 06:54:18 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Orwell was prescient (2+ / 0-)
      George Orwell  Notes on Nationalism

      Indifference to Reality. All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side. . . . The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.

    •  I feel so lost (0+ / 0-)

      I never imagined that a Democratic President would be defending attacks which have killed, among many others, two American citizens. One of these was a child whose only possible offense was being in the vicinity of his familial relation.

      What's more, the Democratic President defending this mostly precise program that hasn't caused a huge number of innocent death was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

      What doesn't surprise me, though, is that this Website, whose mission recently shifted away from electing "more and better" to just "better" Democrats, has virtually ignored the statements. Ignored them so much that I had to search, and "necro," a day old thread.

  •  In Obama lala-land, real terrorists (Wall street (7+ / 0-)

    banksters), war criminals, corporate criminals like BP etc  get immunity. Whistleblowers and true patriots like Bradley Manning go to prison.

    "The word bipartisan means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out”. - George Carlin

    by Funkygal on Wed Feb 01, 2012 at 06:37:35 AM PST

    •  President Obama... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      doroma, lcj98

      got BP to cough up $20-$25 billion to clean up its mess.

      And I wouldn't exactly be picking up my chisel just yet to add Bradley Manning's visage to Mt. Rushmore.

      How about I believe in the unlucky ones?

      by BenderRodriguez on Wed Feb 01, 2012 at 07:07:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I wouldn't want Manning to belong on (0+ / 0-)

        Mt.Rushmore with the empire's oligarchs, slave holders etc. It will be an insult to Manning. I agree with you there.

        BP - there is more than meets the eye beyond the paltry settlement.

        "The word bipartisan means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out”. - George Carlin

        by Funkygal on Wed Feb 01, 2012 at 11:05:44 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Let's review! (0+ / 0-)

          Perhaps you're not aware of who's on Mt. Rushmore.

          Abraham Lincoln:
          1. Not a slaveholder.
          2. Not an oligarch.

          Theodore Roosevelt:
          1. Not a slaveholder.
          2. Known as the "Trust-Buster."

          And I think, despite their flaws, that Washington and Jefferson did a little more for this country than Bradley Manning has done or ever will do.

          And in what universe is $20-25 billion considered "paltry"?

          How about I believe in the unlucky ones?

          by BenderRodriguez on Thu Feb 02, 2012 at 02:20:05 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Perhaps you are not aware of the real history of (0+ / 0-)

            our presidents and the empire building (By oligarchs I meant empire builders - not the right word) and believe in the mythology that is the mainstream, white-washed history. Theodore Roosevelt is a warmonger and a racist.
            http://michaelklonsky.blogspot.com/...

            Of course, they all did to strengthen the empire (Lincoln's presidency not as bad as others) while subjugating other countries which Manning wont do. He is an ordinary American who is a truth teller and sought to expose the empire.

            BP :  it all depends on how much the affected people get and what the long term effects are in the region. And the admin is not exactly known for its transparency and is beholden to corporations like any other.  Truth will come in trickles.  

            "The word bipartisan means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out”. - George Carlin

            by Funkygal on Thu Feb 02, 2012 at 07:29:03 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Drones have killed civilians. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    doroma

    This is indisputable. And, of course, it's awful.

    But doesn't conventional warfare kill way more civilians?

    Isn't an unmanned drone that can more easily target the bad guys a better alternative to indiscriminately dropping bombs and putting more civilians' lives -- not to mention U.S. pilots' lives -- at risk?

    Until the day arrives when we realize the folly of war, the use of drones has to be embraced as being, at least, somewhat less awful.

    How about I believe in the unlucky ones?

    by BenderRodriguez on Wed Feb 01, 2012 at 07:16:35 AM PST

    •  Drones are not necessarily better (4+ / 0-)

      Jane Mayer dug into the risks associated with the drone program in 2009: http://www.newyorker.com/...

      The program has since expanded.

      TRAITOR: The Whistleblower and the "American Taliban" - please "like" at http://www.traitorbook.com/

      by Jesselyn Radack on Wed Feb 01, 2012 at 07:36:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for the link. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lcj98, redlum jak

        From the article:

        Predator drones, with their superior surveillance abilities, have a better track record for accuracy than fighter jets, according to intelligence officials. Also, the drone’s smaller Hellfire missiles are said to cause far less collateral damage. Still, the recent campaign to kill Baitullah Mehsud offers a sobering case study of the hazards of robotic warfare. It appears to have taken sixteen missile strikes, and fourteen months, before the C.I.A. succeeded in killing him. During this hunt, between two hundred and seven and three hundred and twenty-one additional people were killed, depending on which news accounts you rely upon.

        --------------

        So, yay, we got a bad guy. But hundreds of others were killed, too, possibly innocent civilians. And that's awful, it should go without saying.

        But it's not Dresden awful.

        How about I believe in the unlucky ones?

        by BenderRodriguez on Wed Feb 01, 2012 at 08:09:16 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Great slogan. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          schumann, aliasalias

          "Obama 2012: He's not Dresden Awful."

          The bourgeoisie had better watch out for me, all throughout this so called nation. We don't want your filthy money, we don't need your innocent bloodshed, we just want to end your world. ~H.R.

          by chipmo on Wed Feb 01, 2012 at 09:42:09 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Where did I say... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            lcj98

            that the sum total of President Obama's accomplishments was the use of drones?

            Obama has proven repeatedly he uses his administration's intelligence gathering wisely, unlike his predecessor, in addition to his other myriad accomplishments, both foreign and domestic.

            Does the use of drones please me, as a human being? No. But as I said above, they are a better alternative to conventional warfare.

            How about I believe in the unlucky ones?

            by BenderRodriguez on Wed Feb 01, 2012 at 10:30:10 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  And this breeds more terrorists (0+ / 0-)

          Since each of those hundreds of people have family that mourn for them, many of those family members will now like the US less, and some will dislike the US enough to become terrorists.

          So yay, one dead, but several more created. This is not a winning strategy.

          The Taliban uses a different strategy. They will walk into a bar, kill the collaborator, and not touch the others there.

  •  Just a reminder (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Woody, chipmo, brasilaaron, aliasalias
    "All murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets."
    Voltaire

    "Nonviolent in the face of police brutality." Scott Olsen's email signature

    by BOHICA on Wed Feb 01, 2012 at 08:24:33 AM PST

  •  Not meant to sound dickish but... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG, BenderRodriguez

    So, you don't believe the government should have anything classified?...  Information is classified for a reason, not just to keep the public in the dark.

    If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough. -- A.E.

    by lcj98 on Wed Feb 01, 2012 at 09:03:56 AM PST

    •  No (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      chipmo, brasilaaron, aliasalias

      Of course there are things that government needs to keep secret - troop movements, etc - and there is information that is properly classified.

      However, classification experts from both sides of the aisle agree that the classification system is plagued by rampant overclassification. Moreover, when the Executive branch manipulates the system by anonymously "leaking" information positive to its policies and keeping secret negative or embarrassing information (and prosecuting those who would reveal it), the entire system is devalued.

      The Brennan Center published a stellar report on the overclassification problem.

      TRAITOR: The Whistleblower and the "American Taliban" - please "like" at http://www.traitorbook.com/

      by Jesselyn Radack on Wed Feb 01, 2012 at 09:28:53 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BenderRodriguez

        I do agree that overclassification is a problem, however, in this particular case I don't see how you can that the President has contributed to it.  He didn't reveal anything that wasn't already known publicly.  The use of drones to target terrorist has been reported since 2009, however, the specifics of the drone program are/were classified because of ongoing covert operations and those operations should be classified.

        What you are putting forward isn't the reality of this particular issue.  Also, you omitted this part of the WashPo article concerning the ACLU lawsuit:

        But a federal judge found in favor of the CIA, ruling that Panetta had never spoken specifically about drones or “acknowledged the CIA’s involvement in such [a] program.”

        If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough. -- A.E.

        by lcj98 on Wed Feb 01, 2012 at 11:48:55 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  President disclosing a program is not a leak by (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lcj98, BenderRodriguez

    definition.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site