Apparently the President has some kind of weird fixation on preventing leaks.
Alter writes that “no one on his staff was brave enough to tell [Obama] that obsessing over leaks was a colossal waste of time. But it wouldn’t have mattered: leaks offended Obama’s sense of discipline and reminded him of everything he disliked about the capital. He was fearsome on the subject, which seemed to bring out his controlling nature to an even greater degree than usual.”
Off-the-record gossip, reported innuendo, and even damaging leaks are staple transactions in Washington. They are the lubricant in a symbiotic spin machine that, in the long run, serves the interest of the presidency and the press. Trying to stop leaks is a Sisyphean task, but that hasn’t stopped Obama from trying.
The administration is on the verge of being the first in US history to see two people sentenced for disclosing classified information in a single presidential term. In May, Shamai Leibowitz, a Silver Spring linguist who had worked for the FBI on contract, was sentenced to 20 months in prison for giving classified information to the host of a blog. And in April, the Justice Department indicted a former National Security Agency official, Thomas Drake, for allegedly leaking classified information to a reporter at the Baltimore Sun. If convicted, Drake could spend decades in prison.
The military also filed criminal charges in July against Bradley Manning, a 22-year-old Army specialist from Potomac who allegedly leaked government secrets to the Web site WikiLeaks. Manning is believed to have given the site footage of an Apache-helicopter strike in Iraq from 2007 that killed civilians and two news reporters. The footage caused a sensation when WikiLeaks posted it in April with the title collateral murder. Manning is also suspected of having given the site more than 250,000 secret diplomatic cables, which he may have copied off a government computer system in Iraq.
The math is telling: Taken together, the Manning investigation, the Leibowitz and Drake cases, and the Risen subpoena suggest that the Obama administration may go down in history as the most anti-leak of all.
Not a pretty story, but it’s certainly relevant.