WASHINGTON -- In most administrations, "leaks" of classified information precipitate presidential ire. Nearly all such unauthorized disclosures are the consequence of disgruntled government employees deciding that a "leak" is the best way to stop some activity they have decided should not continue. To justify their unlawful actions, they call themselves "secret whistle-blowers." The so-called "mainstream media" love them. Most American presidents do not. That's what makes the current commander in chief's reactions to a whole series of "leaks" so unusual. President Barack Obama doesn't seem to be concerned at all.
President Ronald Reagan was infuriated by the publication and broadcast of highly classified plans for the rescue of medical students on the island of Grenada in 1983. He believed the leaks endangered both the students and U.S. troops.
President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were, by all accounts, outraged when sensitive information on how the U.S. intercepted Osama bin Laden's communications and tracked terrorist finances made its way into the press. The revelation precipitated congressional and Justice Department investigations. And we all know what happened when the name Valerie Plame was published in connection with efforts to determine whether Saddam Hussein had acquired uranium from Niger.
The Obama administration has taken an entirely different tack. Last week, the mainstream media engaged in a feeding frenzy over a three-part series in The Washington Post revealing the locations of sensitive U.S. government sites and names and addresses of contractors performing classified intelligence work for the U.S. government. This week, POTUS brushed off the publication of more than 90,000 pages of classified U.S. military cables on WikiLeaks, a leftist, anti-military website. For the O-Team, this is no big deal.
In his Rose Garden remarks July 27, Obama observed he was "concerned about the disclosure" but went on to note the "documents don't reveal any issues that haven't already informed our public debate on Afghanistan." He then launched into a now-familiar discourse: "For seven years, we failed to implement a strategy adequate to the challenge in this region." In short: "Don't blame me; blame Bush."
Pointing to "failures" and "leaks" from his predecessor's administration has generally worked for Obama. The masters of the media and the potentates of the press have been very accommodating. But that support may prove to be harder to keep as opposition to his own faltering war policies accumulates here at home and in Afghanistan.
While the Obama administration was dismissing "no-news-here leaks," an internal opposition group, describing itself as the "Voice of Afghan Youth," surfaced on the Internet. I stumbled on the group's videos this week
Unhappily for the White House, the videos allege that Afghan President Hamid Karzai, two of his family members and his closest adviser, Mohammad Omar Daudzai, are involved in massive corruption, opium dealing and colluding with the Iranian government. Daudzai is depicted as an "Evil Wazir," a wicked figure prominent in ancient Persian folklore and the epic poem "Shahnama." He and Karzai's brother Ahmad Wali both are castigated for taking "gold monthly from the boss of American intelligence" -- meaning the CIA.
Though this charge is hardly new, the accusation that Daudzai is also in "the pay of the Persians" is a virtual improvised explosive device. So, too, is the claim that Karzai -- described as the "misguided king of Kabul" -- has himself "taken Persian gold" and allowed Iranian spies to "operate freely in Kabul and the provinces."
After I alerted several military and intelligence friends overseas and here in the states to the "Afghan Youth" videos, their responses ranged from "very interesting" to "I wonder who is behind this" to "damning for Karzai, his cronies and those who are tied to him." None of my sources acknowledged having heard of the "Voice of Afghan Youth" before I called.
When I asked about the "new poisonous powder" identified in one of the videos, I was told, "Given the descriptions of the exposure consequences, it is likely some form of cesium being traded on the black market. Cesium formate is used primarily for oil drilling, but in other chemical forms, it's used in medical diagnostics. Of course, if someone fired a rocket containing radioactive cesium into a NATO base, we would probably have to close it."
These "Afghan Youth" videos -- out there for anyone to see -- ought to be a treasure-trove for those who call themselves "investigative reporters." But then again, it's so much easier to wait for some disaffected American to simply call with the latest "leak" -- and then sit back and wait for the Obama White House to blame Bush. If the allegations in these videos are accurate, that won't work this time.