Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Plugging leaks

The Obama administration has gone after more whistleblowers and journalists for leaking classified information that all other administrations combined. Quite ironic considering Barack Obama ran as a candidate who would bring more transparency to governance.

Of course the problem isn't that a government employee was leaking information to a journalist or that the journalist wrote a story about it - because the Obama administration leaks classified information to the press all the time.

The distinction is, as usual, whose ox is getting gored.

In the latest fiasco, the FBI subpoenaed home, business and cell phone records from dozens of AP employees in an attempt to find out who the source for an article about how the government thwarted a terrorist attack was. According to the government, the records were subpoenaed so that investigators could map out telephone calls and somehow "triangulate" who was making them.

Maybe. Maybe not.

I suspect the real reason the government issued overly broad subpoenas and did it without consulting with the AP beforehand wasn't so much to find the leaker, but more to create a chilling effect for the next reporter who came across sensitive information. Being subjected to having los federales dig around in your private affairs might just be enough to make some reporters think twice before pushing the send button.

Strangely enough, I don't remember anyone in the White House throwing a fit when the news came out that Anwar al-Awlaki had been added to the President's (illegal and unconstitutional) hit list. I don't recall any heads being made to roll when details of the Osama bin Laden murder became known. The Obama administration made quite liberal use of the government sieve when it served their purpose during the fall.

It's only when neither the president, nor his cronies, are in control of the leaks that problems occur. Bradley Manning leaked materials that proved our government violated international law and conventions regarding torture. He exposed the hypocrisy in Washington and caused much consternation when foreign leaders found out how they'd been played off one another.

In order to show Private Manning who was in charge, the government instituted a smear campaign against him and subjected him to torture. The cables were published on the Wikileaks website so our government turned its focus to Julian Assange who served the role of journalist. But, just as the government tried to silence Daniel Ellsburg when he provided the New York Times with a copy of The Pentagon Papers, the Obama administration went after Mr. Assange and Wilkileaks in any manner they could.

It'a all about control. It's all about the spin. Somewhere George W. Bush is sitting and smiling as he watches President Obama take his ideas for the War Against the Constitution and transform it into something that even W's supporters didn't think possible.

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