The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

October 2, 2012

Marta Mossburg, columnist: Loose lips talking in Obama administration

Divulging national secrets used to be a crime. Remember Robert Hanssen, the FBI agent turned Soviet and Russian spy? He pleaded guilty to espionage in 2001 and is now serving a life sentence in federal prison in Colorado.

Or what about Aldrich Ames, the former Central Intelligence Agency officer convicted in 1994 of spying for the Soviets and Russia, who will sit in federal prison for the rest of his life?

Today, it is the favorite sport of Obama administration officials who leak information to score points for team Hope and Change. It’s so bad it’s as if the ladies of “The View” were moonlighting as national security advisers.

What makes the situation even worse is that administration officials would like to punish Matt Bissonnette, one of the members of SEAL Team 6 that killed Osama bin Laden, for writing a book about the raid whose details were first revealed by ... the Obama administration.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is still mulling whether to prosecute Bissonnette, who wrote “No Easy Day” under the pen name Mark Owen. Earlier this month Panetta said: “I think we have to take steps to make clear to him and to the American people that we’re not going to accept this kind of behavior.”

The American people would be better served if he instead unleashed the government’s prosecutorial powers on the loose lips in his midst. Let’s review some of the most significant administration leaks of the past year.

In August of 2011, The New Yorker published a blow by blow of the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that killed the 9/11 mastermind. It was based on interviews with White House officials. The piece detailed the weapons used, how the SEALs executing the mission entered Pakistan secretly on “10 to 12 previous occasions,” the planning process for the mission, and the fact that President Obama did not want to inform Pakistan of the raid, among other key details. The names of the people on the mission were fake, though — I’m sure officials wanted to be extra careful to protect the identities of those willing to sacrifice their lives for this country!

Americans also learned, thanks to White House officials, how the president selects terrorists to kill from what one member of the administration calls “the macabre ‘baseball cards’ of an unconventional war.” It must have been especially thrilling to see his or her handiwork on the front page of The New York Times. Why not just put glass around the situation room and offer tours during big decision times for those willing to pay $10,000? It might even reduce the deficit.

We learned that the United States and Israel (who knew we were friends?) developed the Stuxnet cyber worm to attack Iran’s nuclear program and how it was “the most sophisticated, complex cyber attack the United States has ever launched.” That was from David Sanger’s “Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power,” courtesy of White House officials. Mr. Sanger also reveals how under President Obama the United States is involved in “a state of low-grade, daily conflict” according to one presidential adviser, and how we tap the phones of the ISI, a Pakistani secret service, among other not-so-secret tidbits.

And then there is the forthcoming movie “Zero Dark Thirty” about the bin Laden raid. Government corruption investigator Judicial Watch revealed as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request that, “the Obama Defense Department granted (movie director Kathryn) Bigelow and (screenwriter Mark) Boal access to a ‘planner, operator and commander of SEAL Team Six,’ which was responsible for the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden, to assist Bigelow prepare her upcoming feature film.”

Maybe Americans can’t expect much from government in an era when even members of Congress Tweet photos of their private parts. But what kind of leaders are willing to potentially sacrifice thousands of U.S. servicemen and women’s lives and those of intelligence assets working for us so that President Obama and his emissaries can dance on the grave of Osama bin Laden at the Democratic National Convention?

What’s clear is that the administration has no moral authority to stop those who peddle national secrets for personal or political gain.

As Bissonnette wrote: “If my commander in chief is willing to talk, then I feel comfortable doing the same.”

Marta H. Mossburg is a columnist with The Baltimore Sun and The Frederick News-Post. She’s a regular commentator and guest host at WBAL Radio in Baltimore. She writes about national affairs and about politics in Maryland, where she lives. Read her work at www.martamossburg.com.

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