Barack Obama, Leaker in Chief

Transparency only when it hurts America.

During the Presidential Campaign, Mr. Obama promised that his administration would be the most transparent ever.  At the time, he was out of power.

Those who are out of power love transparency because transparency reveals information which embarrasses the powerful.  That's why the powerful hate transparency - secrecy is the primary tool of tyranny, of course, but given how incompetent government is by its very nature, it's helpful even to governments that aren't tyrannies.

Once he attained power, Mr. Obama did a complete flip-flop.  Instead of being transparent about the details of Obamacare as it was being discussed, the kilopage monstrosity was kept secret.  Ms. Pelosi famously declared that we'd have to wait until they passed Obamacare before we could see what was in it.

Their caution was well founded - since the law became public, more and more problems with cost and delivery have come to light.  Given all this criticism, they might not have been able to pass it if the administration had been as transparent as Mr. Obama had promised.

Transparency Conflicts

Mr. Obama also said he'd encourage whistle-blowers - government employees who reveal hidden malfeasance and waste - but that promise has likewise been broken.

The May 23 issue of the New Yorker had an article "The Secret Sharer" about Thomas Drake.  Mr. Drake is a whistle-blower who once worked for the National Security Agency.  He revealed that the NSA had wasted billions of dollars on a failed data collection system.

He also claimed that the NSA is intercepting and storing essentially all email traffic both worldwide and in the United States.  Collecting American data without a warrant is against the law, even under the Patriot Act.

Wasting money and systematic violations of the law are precisely what Mr. Obama declared that whistleblowers should target, but his Justice Department is instead prosecuting Mr. Drake for violating the Espionage Act.

After discussing the firestorm which erupted when it was found that the Bush administration had been tapping American telephone calls without warrants, the New Yorker discussed Mr. Obama's attitude towards transparency:

Gabriel Schoenfeld, a conservative political scientist at the Hudson Institute, who, in his book "Necessary Secrets" (2009), argues for more stringent protection of classified information, says, "Ironically, Obama has presided over the most draconian crackdown on leaks in our history - even more so than Nixon."  [emphasis added] ...

Obama, Balkin [a liberal law professor at Yale] says, has "systematically adopted policies consistent with the second term of the Bush administration." ...

Danielle Brian, the executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, attended the meeting [March 28 between Mr. Obama and five transparency advocates], and said that Obama's tone was generally supportive of transparency.  But when the subject of national security leaks came up, Brian said, "the President shifted in his seat and leaned forward.  He said that this may be where we have some differences.  He said he doesn't want to protect people who leak to the media war plans that could impact the troops."

The Leaker in Chief

Mr. Obama's expressed concern for protecting our troops is well taken, but when it comes to leaking critical information for short-term political advantage, he's become our Leaker in Chief.

When Osama bin Laden was killed by our Special Forces, the computers, hard drives, and other data retrieved from the hideout gave us leads to many of his partners in crime.  Unfortunately, by announcing his death so promptly, Mr. Obama warned everyone whose name might be in Mr. Bin Laden's treasure trove to run and hide.

If Obama had held back the announcement for only a few days, it would have had just as much impact - but our intelligence staff would have had time to track down some of Mr. Bin Laden's colleagues in evil and grab their bank accounts before they vanished on the run into a different cave.

Nobody except a very few trusted couriers knew where Bin Laden lived.  The Pakistanis were certainly not going to publicize the fact that he'd been living in their midst.  If nobody in al Qaeda knew that Mr. Bin Laden's data had been compromised, everybody he'd kept records of could have been rounded up.  Mr. Obama gave away a massive, unprecedented opportunity to damage al-Qaeda, not even for ephemeral political gain, but simply to bring that gain forward a couple of days to no useful end.

What's more, there was so much euphoria in the White House and elsewhere in the administration that Mr. Obama's minions gave away details about what we did and how we did it.  If they hadn't told everyone, al Qaeda would have had to send messages - "Where's Osama?  Anybody heard from him?" - to try to figure out what had happened.  Tracking these messages would have gives us yet more information.

It's hard to imagine our military not begging the President to give them at least a couple days or a week to exploit the Bin Laden data.  Consider how much more impact Mr. Obama's announcement would have had if he could have said, a) we also got his 5 closest associates, b) we disrupted 3 planned attacks, and c) we seized xx millions of their funds.  A little actual concern for protecting important secrets would have served us well and given him a better story to tell.

Telling How We Did It

What's worse, leaking the details of how we tracked Bin Laden will make it harder to track his associates.  One reason it was hard to find Bin Laden was that President Clinton leaked the fact that we were monitoring Osama Bin Laden’s satellite cell phone.  Not being a complete idiot, Osama instantly stopped using his phone and gave up all electronic devices - his compound had neither a telephone nor an Internet connection.  Only a few trusted couriers knew his location.  Information about him dried up.

If Mr. Clinton hadn't leaked, we might have known about 9-11 in advance, the Twin Towers might still be standing, and 3,000 people might not have died, to say nothing of the cost of the "War on Terror."  During WWII, everyone knew that "Loose lips sink ships," but neither Mr. Clinton nor Mr. Obama have any military experience.

If Mr. Bin Laden could learn so much from hearing that we were tracking his cell phone, how much more will his successors learn from the stories of how we tracked him down and how we attacked his compound?

Mr. Obama, our Leaker in Chief, has greatly reduced the gains from a successful military operation and compromised our future ability to track down other enemies.  At the same time, his Justice Department is prosecuting a whistle-blower who embarrassed the NSA without leaking any classified information.

Bottom Line 

  • Mr. Obama called for transparency when he was out of power because he wanted information to use against his political opponents.  Once in power, he's run a stronger anti-leak, much more secretive administration than President Nixon, which is saying a lot.
  • Even though he said he wanted whistle-blowers to reveal government waste and corruption, he's letting his Justice Department prosecute Mr. Drake, whose "crime" was to embarrass powerful members of the multi-billion-dollar anti-terror establishment.
  • Now that we know his real attitude towards transparency and whistle blowers, the Washington Post shouldn't expect any thanks for exposing waste, fraud, and corruption at HUD.  How many more whistle blowers will speak up?
  • During the Bush administration, the New York Times revealed that phone companies help the NSA intercepts American phone calls; the Obama administration has continued the practice.  Google Voice converts voice messages and texts them to you.  The NSA has better voice recognition than Google - they convert all your phone calls to text.  Don't say anything on any phone you don't want government to know.
  • The New Yorker reports that the NSA is collecting American email with cooperation from network companies.  Spitzer used email to jail many people.  Don't put anything in any email you don't want government to know.
  • The New Yorker article reminded us that absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Mr. Obama hung out with a known terrorist and was pretty corrupt to begin with as the Boston Globe reported; he didn't have far to fall.

Mr. Obama wanted transparency when he was out of power, but now that he's in power, he doesn't want us to know what he's doing.  No change, no hope.

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Partisanship.
Reader Comments

"Nobody except a very few trusted couriers knew where Bin Laden lived. The Pakistanis were certainly not going to publicize the fact that he'd been living in their midst. If nobody in al Qaeda knew that Mr. Bin Laden's data had been compromised, everybody he'd kept records of could have been rounded up. Mr. Obama gave away a massive, unprecedented opportunity to damage al-Qaeda, not even for ephemeral political gain, but simply to bring that gain forward a couple of days to no useful end..."

How much assumption is evident in this paragraph?
The assumption that this so-called "War on Terror" is real is a very large, and I would submit erroneous.
There are deeper issues that are in the public realm that show without doubt that this whole issue is nothing but a legend. The history is clear that western intelligence created not only al Qaeda, but the Taliban as well.

This would take more to expound upon than the space available in this comment section. And as this is "out of the box", or the paradigm favored by this site, I won't pursue it unless so invited.

May 23, 2011 3:08 PM


you can get a decent start given that 4000 characters is a lot of words. It isn't really a war on terror since terror is a tactic. It's more like putting down barbarians.

Do write it up.

May 23, 2011 5:32 PM

-Osama bin Laden, America's bogyman, was recruited by the CIA in 1979 at the very outset of the US sponsored jihad. He was 22 years old and was trained in a CIA sponsored guerilla training camp.

-The architects of the covert operation in support of "Islamic fundamentalism" launched during the Reagan presidency played a key role in launching the "Global War on Terrorism" in the wake of 9/11.

- President Ronald Reagan met the leaders of the Islamic Jihad at the White House in 1985

-Under the Reagan administration, US foreign policy evolved towards the unconditional support and endorsement of the Islamic "freedom fighters". In today's World, the "freedom fighters" are labeled "Islamic terrorists".

-In the Pashtun language, the word "Taliban" means "Students", or graduates of the madrasahs (places of learning or Koranic schools) set up by the Wahhabi missions from Saudi Arabia, with the support of the CIA.

-Education in Afghanistan in the years preceding the Soviet-Afghan war was largely secular. The US covert education destroyed secular education. The number of CIA sponsored religious schools (madrasahs) increased from 2,500 in 1980 to over 39,000.

The Soviet-Afghan war was part of a CIA covert agenda initiated during the Carter administration, which consisted in actively supporting and financing the Islamic brigades, later known as Al Qaeda.

>>In plain English, it was Western Intelligence that created “Islamic Radicalism”--the 'Controlled Opposition'.~ww

With William Casey as director of the CIA, NSDD 166 was described as the largest covert operation in US history:

The U.S. supplied support package had three essential components-organization and logistics, military technology, and ideological support for sustaining and encouraging the Afghan resistance....

U.S. counterinsurgency experts worked closely with the Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in organizing Mujahideen groups and in planning operations inside Afghanistan.

... But the most important contribution of the U.S. was to ... bring in men and material from around the Arab world and beyond. The most hardened and ideologically dedicated men were sought on the logic that they would be the best fighters. Advertisements, paid for from CIA funds, were placed in newspapers and newsletters around the world offering inducements and motivations to join the Jihad. (Pervez Hoodbhoy, Afghanistan and the Genesis of the Global Jihad, Peace Research, 1 May 2005)

Religious Indoctrination
Under NSDD 166, US assistance to the Islamic brigades channeled through Pakistan was not limited to bona fide military aid. Washington also supported and financed by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the process of religious indoctrination, largely to secure the demise of secular institutions:

There is continuity. The architects of the covert operation in support of "Islamic fundamentalism" launched during the Reagan presidency played a key role in launching the "Global War on Terrorism" in the wake of 9/11.

The Iran Contra Operation

Robert Gates, Colin Powell and Richard Armitage, among others, were also involved in the Iran-Contra operation.

Armitage was in close liaison with Colonel Oliver North. His deputy and chief anti-terrorist official Noel Koch was part of the team set up by Oliver North.

Of significance, the Iran-Contra operation was also tied into the process of channeling covert support to the Islamic brigades in Afghanistan. The Iran Contra scheme served several related foreign policy:

1) Procurement of weapons to Iran thereby feeding the Iraq-Iran war, amagdella

2) Support to the Nicaraguan Contras,
3) Support to the Islamic brigades in Afghanistan, channeled via Pakistan's ISI.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was also implicated in the Iran-Contra Affair.

May 23, 2011 9:23 PM

Al-Qaeda: The Western Toilet
What does the word "Al-Qaeda" mean ? In Arabic, "Al-Qaeda" has a different
meanings, among them “Base", "Ground", "Norm", "Rule", "Fundament",
"Grammar". The exact meaning is dependent on the context in which it is used.
It depends on the word which follows “Al-Qaeda” in the sentence. "Qawa'ad
Askaria" is an Army Base, "Qawa'ad Lugha" stands for Grammar Rules (the
Bases of Grammar).
"Qa'ada" is the infinitive of the verb "to sit". "Ma-Qa'ad" is a chair. "Al-Qaeda"
is the base or fundament of something. "Ana raicha Al Qaeda" is colloquial for
"I'm going to the toilet". A very common and widespread use of the word “Al-
Qaeda” in different Arab countries in the public language is for the toilet bowl.
This name comes from the Arabic verb “Qa'ada” which mean “to sit”,
pertinently, on the “Toilet Bowl”. In most Arabs homes there are two kinds of
toilets: “Al-Qaeda” also called the "Hamam Franji" or foreign toilet, and
"Hamam Arabi" or “Arab toilet” which is a hole in the ground. Lest we forget
it, the potty used by small children is called "Ma Qa'adia" or "Little Qaeda".
Those who founded the glorious "International of Islamic Terror, Al-Qaeda,
probably knew too little about common use of Arabic language to know that by
using this name for their organization, they risked becoming the laughing stock
of everybody who speaks the Arabic "public" language.

May 23, 2011 10:02 PM

Top U.S. Government Insider: Bin Laden Died In 2001, 9/11 A False Flag
Top US government insider Dr. Steve R. Pieczenik, a man who held numerous different influential positions under three different Presidents and still works with the Defense Department, shockingly told The Alex Jones Show yesterday that Osama Bin Laden died in 2001 and that he was prepared to testify in front of a grand jury how a top general told him directly that 9/11 was a false flag inside job.
Pieczenik said that Osama Bin Laden died in 2001, “Not because special forces had killed him, but because as a physician I had known that the CIA physicians had treated him and it was on the intelligence roster that he had marfan syndrome,” adding that the US government knew Bin Laden was dead before they invaded Afghanistan.

1. DNA tests, the results of which were known in a matter of hours, proved it was Osama. Unless the CIA and military have access to DNA tests that the rest of the populace does not, it takes more than a few hours for a DNA match to be made.

2. No one heard two Black Hawk and two Chinook helicopters fly in. Even with radar evading "stealth" technology, this claim is hard to believe.

3. No one heard a very loud explosion (the downed Black Hawk being blown up) or the large caliber gunfire emanating from the compound as SEAL Team 6 supposedly made its way to the room where Osama was cloistered with at least one of his wives.

4. Osama's remains were wrapped in a blanket, put on a Chinook, flown to a ship (supposedly the USS Carl Vinson) and buried "in Islamic tradition" at sea. Burial within 24 hours of death is an Islamic tradition but that doesn't extend to burial at sea. Obama claimed this was done because no country wanted bin Laden buried there. From Pakistani outrage, at having their country invaded by Americans, that does not seem to be the case. All across the Middle East, demonstrations have condemned the act while glorifying bin Laden.

5. No pictures.
A neighbor of dead terrorist leader Osama bin Laden says the man seen in new videos released by the US government is actually a friend of his and not the Al Qaeda founder.

“His name is Akhbar Khan (Han), He owns the house that was Osama’s house. I know him very well,” a Pakistani man named Shabir told the BBC.

Shabir says he is his a neighbor of the man.

“It’s all a fake, nothing happened,” Abbottobad resient Mohammed, who has been selling newspapers in the two for the last 50 years, told the BBC.

Out of the 50 Abbottobad residents interviewed by the BBC, only one believed that Osama bin Laden was in their town. Others claimed the pictures and video of bin Laden in his

May 23, 2011 10:11 PM

There is no evidence linking Bin Laden to 911. Bin Laden did not organize war games on the day of 911 "simulating" hijacked airliners crashing into buildings. Bin Laden did not announce 2.3 trillion missing from the Pentagon one day before 911. Bin Laden did not cause Building 7 to implode.
Bin Laden himself denied involvement in the attacks, blaming them on elements within the US government.
Shortly thereafter he appears to have died. They couldn't find plausible doubles. They didn't even bother to find a guy with a gray beard.
Even the audio recordings were badly faked; The Dalle Molle Institute for Perceptual Intelligence in Switzerland studied one tape and concluded that they were 95 percent certain it was bogus.

The White House photograph of Obama, Clinton and top security advisers supposedly watching real-time footage of the Navy Seals’ onslaught on the Abbottabad compound, their killing of two men and a woman (excuse for the latter killing: the standard “caught in crossfire”) and liquidation of OBL himself turns out to have been a phony. BO and friends could have been watching basketball replays. Panetta has admitted the real-time video link stopped working before the Seals got into the compound.

The White House claims that issues of delicacy prohibit the release of photographs of Osama’s bullet-riddled face and required that after an alleged match with a relative’s DNA he be given a swift but formal sea burial in a weighted body bag dropped from the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson into the north Arabian Sea

The "Bin Laden" hoax is consuming our time and energy even as the global corporate-financier oligarchs flee forward cashing in on the political capital they presume they have gained by making this announcement. Even a superficial examination of mainstream media's headlines and interviews with the CIA director himself calls into question the official narrative with mind numbing contradictions and faulty logic even a child could spot.
The CIA itself is only 95% sure, based on facial recognition, that they bagged their rouge agent. A London Guardian report compounds this uncertainty stating that the CIA compared the alleged DNA of this man they claim to have shot dead in Pakistan, not with a previous sample from Osama Bin Laden, but against a Bin Laden family member. If we are to believe any of this at all, the CIA is not even saying they are 100% sure, so why should we be?

May 23, 2011 10:20 PM

Now Obama is charging that Pakistan supported CIA's Osama ghost. What an amazing bloody fairytale. This leads to the next phase in the empire, the Balkanization of Pakistan. It is already in the blueprints and exposed.
See: Brookings Institute; ROAD MAP TO PERSIA

"A DNA sample may take hours or even weeks to come back with conclusive evidence of someone's identity. Several factors are involved, including the quality of the sample, how complicated the testing is on the sample and what the test is supposed to show. In the case of bin Laden it would have been very simple to get a large enough sample of quality DNA for a basic identity test. The U.S. simply needed the DNA to show it was one particular person and that was it."

No that wasn't IT. They are claiming that the DNA belonged to the FAMILY, not a particular person within it.

"The United States probably didn't have a sample of the man's DNA, otherwise they would have been close enough to arrest or kill him long before now. The key is familial DNA. Bin Laden has family in Saudi Arabia who could have offered a sample of their DNA to compare to the terrorist mastermind should he be killed. Even though there are some differences between siblings or cousins, the genetic marker in his family would be unique enough to identify bin Laden."

The genetic marker would be unique enough to identify ANY bin Laden...nothing else. Don't forget a son was supposedly killed in the raid as well.

None of these DNA and facial recognition tests have been made public. The body has been thrown into the Indian Ocean.
Despite being in-charge of the global-media, all the INTEL, and all the forces used: The Obama Administration managed to completely destroy its own story and turned this “murder” into a global-political farce that only morons could ever believe.
And the major issue here is NONE of this in independently confirmed, none of it. All is information from the regime in power--simply assertions, that when tested against a multitude of other known facts is shown to be nothing but fable.

May 23, 2011 11:17 PM

Whoa, somebody's been smoking a little too much of Noam Chomsky's finest here! Thought we dealt with this regurgitated dreck in the last comment thread...

May 24, 2011 12:01 AM

Well Patience,

Your argument here certainly addresses the issues I raise in a most 'profound' manner...{grin}

You "thought"? That is a curious statement right there.

May 24, 2011 12:22 AM

Like it is said Patience,

Having a strong opinion is not a mistake.
The mistake is in having nothing else.


May 24, 2011 12:25 AM

FredF and Willy,

In response to "The comment box allows 4,000 characters. Do write it up":

Writing large article-sized comments unrelated to the current topic is in bad form.

We do aggressively censor comments and will remove or curate ones that we dislike. Typically, we only dislike comments that have inappropriate language or spam, but large non-relevant posts are also unpleasant for our readership and will be removed.

If you wish to "write up" an article for the site, we do accept open submissions. You mail email your article to for review.

May 24, 2011 7:31 AM

I think Willy's comments are relevant - there is transparency at one end, then secrecy, and the cover-up. We're used to governments covering up. Didn't someone write a book about Charlie's War to tell how we funded the Taliban? You can stir up a lot of suicide bombers for a billion bucks.

Wasn't the point of the contra fiasco to have the CIA sell illegal drugs to get the money to attack somebody?

I think these things are reasonably well attested. Obama is the opposite of transparent, he's into cover up, and the newspapers help him.

Go, Willy, Go!

May 24, 2011 6:21 PM

I will only make this last comment, as I appreciate that this discussion desturbs the editors and host of the site:

As we know from history, faith and belief constantly cloud and color reality in an unseemly manner, and scholarship and academia have suffered badly from this lack of unbiased approach. It is unfortunate that the hallowed halls of American academia frequently have not transcended their foundations as religious institutions, as was the case with Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Princeton, to name just a few. Yet, it is extremely important to present an impartial perspective so that the average person can deal with all the data, rather than what is selectively filtered through partisan institutions.

May 24, 2011 9:15 PM

The NYT reports that Mr. Drake copped a plea to a minor offense:

Ex-N.S.A. Aide Gains Plea Deal in Leak Case; Setback to U.S.
A former spy agency employee agreed to plead guilty to a minor charge in a highly publicized leak prosecution, undercutting U.S. efforts to stem leaks of classified data to the press.

The Times got it wrong - this doesn't undercut efforts to stop classified data getting to the press because Mr. Drake didn't give anything classified to the press. He did worse - he pointed out that the government had wasted billions of dollars on a useless computer system when they had a perfectly good one that was already known to work.

WASHINGTON — A former spy agency employee agreed late Thursday to plead guilty to a minor charge in a highly publicized leak prosecution, undercutting the Obama administration’s unusual campaign to prosecute government officials who disclose classified information to the press.

The National Security Agency official, Thomas A. Drake, had faced a possible 35 years in prison if convicted on felony charges under the Espionage Act. Instead, he agreed to admit to a misdemeanor of misusing the agency’s computer system by providing “official N.S.A. information” to an unauthorized person, a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. Prosecutors said in the written plea agreement that they would not oppose a sentence under which Mr. Drake would serve no time.

A formal plea hearing was set for Friday morning in Baltimore. The presiding judge, Richard D. Bennett of the district court, could impose a sentence of up to a year in prison. But legal experts said it would be highly unusual to impose a prison term when the Justice Department was not seeking incarceration.

The deal represented the almost complete collapse of the government’s effort to make an example of Mr. Drake, who was charged last year in a 10-count indictment that accused him of obstructing justice and lying to investigators. It is uncertain whether the outcome will influence the handling of three pending leak cases or others still under investigation.

The case against Mr. Drake is among five such prosecutions for disclosures to the news media brought since President Obama took office in 2009: one each against defendants from the National Security Agency, the C.I.A., the F.B.I., the military and the State Department. In the past, such prosecutions have been extremely rare — three or four in history, depending on how they are counted, and never more than one under any other president.

Officials say they have been prompted by a bipartisan belief in Congress and in both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations that leaks were getting out of hand.

The flurry of criminal cases has led to both praise and criticism for Mr. Obama, who entered office promising unprecedented transparency but in less than three years in office has far outdone the security-minded Bush administration in pursuing leaks. Some political analysts say Mr. Obama’s liberal credentials may give him political cover for the crackdown.

The Drake case was seen as a test of the tougher line against unauthorized disclosures. But news media coverage of the charges against Mr. Drake, 54, an introspective computer specialist, has highlighted his motivation for sharing information about N.S.A. technology with a reporter for The Baltimore Sun in 2006 and 2007: the agency was rejecting a $3 million in-house program called ThinThread in favor of a $1-billion-plus contractor-run program called Trailblazer. His supporters have portrayed him as a diligent public servant who was trying to save taxpayers’ money and strengthen national security, not damage it.

To make it easier to convict him, prosecutors shifted strategies last year and decided to charge him not with giving information to the Sun reporter, Siobhan Gorman, now at The Wall Street Journal, but with illegally holding classified documents at home.


June 12, 2011 5:29 PM
Add Your Comment...
4000 characters remaining
Loading question...