President Obama is brushing off criticism from the Special Operations community over politicized national-security leaks and his exaggerated role in the Osama bin Laden takedown. Two new organizations — the Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund and Special Operations Speaks — have launched campaigns to highlight the president’s exploitation of the military for political gain.
“I don’t take these folks too seriously,” Mr. Obama said on Monday, but the criticism must be hitting a raw nerve. The Obama campaign quickly put up a webpage devoted to discrediting the groups. The site labels the special operators’ effort “Swift Boat 2.0,” referring to the effort by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (SBVT) to politicize Sen. John Kerry’s war record during the 2004 election. Among liberals, the slang term “swift-boating” has come to mean a coordinated disinformation campaign.
Today’s complaints are serious. In May, retired Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when the bin Laden mission was executed, admitted he was worried, “a great deal that this time of year that somehow this gets spun into election politics.” The bin Laden raid had been political fodder from the beginning, however. Mr. Obama pledged he wouldn’t “spike the football” but since the killing has been dancing in the end zone.
Over the weekend, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire Democrat, introduced Mr. Obama as the one who “led the mission that brought Osama bin Laden to justice.” Earlier this year, a political ad timed to coincide with the venture’s anniversary questioned whether Republican challenger Mitt Romney would have given the order to kill the terrorist mastermind. This was before recent revelations that Mr. Obama scrapped the operation three times before finally mustering the fortitude to make the “gutsy call.”
Mr. Obama is also vulnerable on the leaks issue, something he flatly denies. “I’ve been criticized by some for being too vigorous in going after folks who leak information that impacts our national security,” he said Monday. That’s not exactly true. Outside the case of Wikileaker Bradley Manning, there’s scant evidence of a push to punish people for leaking sensitive national-security information.
The problem is acute, though. In June, Chairman Dianne Feinstein, a Democratic senator from California, told CNN, “I’ve been on the Intelligence Committee for 11 years and I have never seen it worse.” There have been leaks about drone strikes, U.S. special operations and foreign classified information sent to newspapers, TV and Hollywood screenwriters. The full extent of White House collaboration in a self-glorifying feature film of the bin Laden strike has yet to be revealed, while the Obama administration rejected a bipartisan call from Congress to appoint a special counsel to investigate the leaks.
Mr. Obama may claim he’s not concerned about the criticism he is getting from the Special Operations community, but judging by the frantic response from his campaign, the president is feeling the heat.
The Washington Times
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