Friday, June 8, 2012

Have security leaks damaged Obama's trustworthiness?

Sometimes, our political leaders must do the right thing and take a stand to protect the national security of our country. Such is the case of Dianne Feinstein, who is normally a very liberal Senator. However, she, along with 3 other legislators, has taken a hard stance in an effort to investigate and stop the recent public leaking and publication of our sensitive security measures. For this, she should be commended.

At issue are "two New York Times front-page articles about President Obama's 'kill list' and the US governments cyberattacks in Iran's nuclear facilities".1

Apparently, the information presented was known only to a small handful of decision makers. Critics have alleged that only White House personnel were present in the formulation of these plans, and that the intention of the leaks are to portray the President as a tough military leader. Yesterday, a  spokesman discredited these assertions, and today, Mr. Obama denounced any White House involvement.

At present, it is unclear how the New York Times obtained their information, but bipartisan congressional leaders are joining forces to investigate this matter. The President has indicated he will investigate as well.

During the 5 weeks, the President has distanced himself from the executive duties of his office. In those 25 weekdays, Mr. Obama has been fundraising outside of DC for 9 days, and posted no public schedule (aside from 1 or 2 daily briefings)  on 5 days.  This means that he only worked 11 of the 25 days. In addition, he was involved with the G8 and NATO summits on 2 of the 11 days. Except on days that the President is traveling, he rarely schedules meetings before 10AM. (We intentionally eliminated weekend days).

Thus, we can see that Mr. Obama appears to spend little time on national affairs.

But, from his recent news conferences and announcements, we know that he has been working on other matters (such as contraception, education, taxation, etc) although these are not on his public agenda.

Thus, it is possible for him to have been involved in the formulation of the 'kill list' and the cyberattacks. In and of itself, the creation and implementation of these covert operations are not being questioned. By and of themselves, they may be applauded. But, such involvements or operations must not be publicized.

Now, because of the NYT disclosures, the problem the Nation faces is one of trust.

The world looks for the United States for leadership. But, if leadership means the public disclosure of our sensitive actions, then that leadership cannot be trusted in future operations. Since trust is crucial for maintaining the success of international relationships, Ms. Feinstein ( are stepping up to repair the damage.

However, the President suffers a larger problem. While no one questions whether he should have been involved in these operations, his initial silence casts doubts about his association with the leaks:
  • if he was directly involved in the disclosures, then his judgement and confidentiality will be lost
  • if he did not know about the operations, then his lack of leadership and involvement will be confirmed and his reputation will be stained.
  • if he was involved in the operations and one of his confidants disclosed the information, then his judgement of individuals will be questioned
Unfortunately, the  publication of the New York Times articles has severely damaged the reputation of the President. No matter what he or his spokesman says, a shadow of doubt will remain.

Hopefully investigation will reveal that an unrelated individual (not the President or White House staff) inadvertently learned of the covert operations and independently leaked the information to the New York Times. The President has stated he too will pursue an investigation of the leaks and hopefully he will identify the source.

Lastly, one must ask why the New York Times published these articles in the first place. Did they think the stories would help the President? Were they given permission to publish the articles? Did they want to hurt the President or the country? Really, it's hard to imagine their motive.

  1. Dianne Feinstein, Saxby Chambliss Promise To Crack Down On National Security Leaks
  2. 5 leaks that have Congress steamed
  3. Pattern of White House Leaks Threatens Nation’s Security
  4. The 'leak' wars

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