Do as I say, not as I do? The New York Times is getting heat from both ends of Congress for intelligence leaks that have shown up in long investigative stories on the front page of the paper. One showcased the president personally choosing targets (the "kill list") of drone strikes against Al Qaeda targets in Yemen and Pakistan, the other show Obama ordering the STUXNET cyber attack on Iran's nuclear program. Some see the leaks as the White House trying to bolster Obama's image as a tough-on-terror leader, and see hypocrisy in the administration's prosection of low-level leakers.
On Thursday Times managing editor Dean Baquet denied to Politico's media reporter Dylan Byers that the Obama White House is leaking to the paper:
“I can’t believe anybody who says these are leaks,” he said. “Read those stories. They are so clearly the product of tons and tons of reporting.” Nonetheless, suggestions of wrongdoing extended to the Times itself on Wednesday, when Democratic Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, questioned whether the paper of record put American security at risk by publishing new revelations about drone strikes against Al Qaeda operatives and the Stuxnet cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Josh Gerstein followed up on Politico Friday:
At a brief news conference on Friday, Obama emphatically denied that the White House had engaged in politically motivated leaks.
“The notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive -- it’s wrong,” the president said
Obama appeared to point to those comments Friday when he stated: “The writers of these articles have all stated unequivocally that [the information] didn’t come from this White House.”
However, the president’s use of the word “purposely” to qualify his denial that anyone at his White House leaked seemed to allow for the possibility that officials might have inadvertently released sensitive information, as may have been the case with a recent disclosure about U.S. infilitration of an Al Qaeda-related terrorist cell.
Since the U.S. raid that killed bin Laden in May 2011, Republicans have been suspicious that the administration was sacrificing security by trying to publicize gee-whiz aspects of the covert operation. Last month, documents were released showing that a top Pentagon official gave Hollywood filmmakers producing a movie about the raid the name of a Navy SEAL involved in planning it. The CIA offered the Hollywood team a tour of a mock-up used to prepare for the raid, the documents indicate.
The Times previously published sensitive classified information that may have sabotaged anti-terrorist programs, against the pleas of the Bush administration, in December 2005 and June 2006 (see last item).