Clandestine Obama™

Obama reneges on secrecy pledge

By Glenn Garvin

There were no cameras around to record whether President Obama was winking when, on his first full day in office, he signed an executive order and two presidential memorandums declaring that “every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information, but those who seek to make it known.”

But surely he must have been. No White House in my lifetime — not even that of the infamously secretive Richard Nixon — has been more of an attack dog when it comes to preserving governmental secrecy.

Nixon unsuccessfully tried to put Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, in jail. But Obama’s administration has filed criminal cases against at least six current or former government employees accused of leaking classified information to reporters.

Leaking classified information sounds serious, unless you know how promiscuously Obama’s administration slaps the words “top secret” on stuff: for instance, the Justice Department memorandum offering the legal justification for the White House’s decision to kill the American-born radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in his hiding place in Yemen.

We’re not talking about a cable explaining how the government knew where Awlaki was hiding or who helped find him. This document is a collection of arguments about musty U.S. Supreme Court decisions involving Fourth and Fifth Amendment cases. The only thing that might be damaged by its release is the reputation of the lawyers who wrote it, and the White House they work for.

Protecting the reputation of government officials, in fact, seems to be an emerging theme of the Obama administration’s policy on classified data. The government was shamelessly open about its motives when it refused to release a 31-year-old CIA history of the Bay of Pigs invasion, telling a federal judge that the document was “a polemic of recriminations against CIA officers who later criticized the operation.”

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