The Information Spigot at the White House

From his first months in office, President Obama secretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America’s first sustained use of cyberweapons, according to participants in the program.

There is an alarming amount of information coming from clandestine sources within the White House with regards to, well, everything. The quote from the New York Times article is the opening to a lengthy piece on the development and deployment of cyber weapons against Iran. This same action, had it been taken by another actor against the U.S., would be considered an act of war.

Senator McCain has accused the Obama administration of using leaks as a political tool, and CBS news has followed that line of thinking with this article:

The Obama administration has been cruelly and unusually punishing in its use of the 1917 Espionage Act to stomp on governmental leakers, truth-tellers, and whistleblowers whose disclosures do not support the president’s political ambitions. As Thomas Drake, himself a victim of Obama’s crusade against whistleblowers, told me, “This makes a mockery of the entire classification system, where political gain is now incentive for leaking and whistleblowing is incentive for prosecution.”

4 responses to “The Information Spigot at the White House

  1. Arguably, the White House has been fairly frank about it’s employment of special operations, but for the sake of argument let’s assume that there is some truth to the allegations that the White House is leaking information to give the President a ratings boost for the upcoming electoral bout. What does this say about the imperial hubris of an American political class and the future of the country?

  2. what do you mean by “imperial hubris”? that a Scheuer reference?

    i honestly don’t see either of these “leaks” as significant–the drone thing didn’t seem like anything new so much as a rollup of what was already in the news, and people have been saying the US was behind Stuxnet (because of the amount of resources necessary to put it together) since 2010. and so in terms of general venality i’d say that–if it was intentional–it was a sleazy move, but on a scale of 1 to blowing-Valerie-Plume’s-cover, not a big deal, maybe roughly comparable. (and on a scale of 1-to-LBJ-sneaking-into-Vietnam, both abuses of power are practically negligible.)

    my personal take on the drone leak is that the Times talked to a lot of people, and with the exception of the handful of disgruntled CIA people, most of them said the same thing–i have a hard time seeing it as an intentional ploy for votes, because it alienates a pretty significant part of the administration’s base. the lefty press is aflame… would have been like a piece on Bush circa 2005 talking about how his secret dream was to expand welfare. don’t know what i think about the Stuxnet leak.

    i think the interesting argument, especially with the drones, is to run it the other way–too much shit is classified. (i don’t mean to excuse intentional leaks–i’m raising a separate issue.)

  3. Not a reference, I never read the book. I’m referring to the idea that the US has an obligation to base chunks of its ‘defense’ apparatus overseas, preemptively, and then use it. The idea that we conduct these sort of things openly and without apology is extreme hubris. Imagine if Mexico flew a drone over Texas and fired rockets at known drug traffickers? These are acts of war, and ironically the root of the radical Muslim terrorist narrative, Western presence and continual interference in the holy land.

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