July 21, 2013

The Splendiferous Difference Obama Makes

The primary theme of this NYT article will not be news to regular readers: the Obama administration's "aggressive focus on leaks and leakers that has led to more than twice as many prosecutions as there were in all previous administrations combined." I will mention just a few points of interest.

The story begins with the role played by Dennis C. Blair after Obama appointed him as director of national intelligence in 2009. Dismayed by the fact that there had been no indictments for leaking in the previous four years, Blair determined to change that policy significantly:
[I]n a series of phone calls and meetings, he and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. fashioned a more aggressive strategy to punish anyone who leaked national security information that endangered intelligence-gathering methods and sources

“My background is in the Navy, and it is good to hang an admiral once in a while as an example to the others,” said Mr. Blair, who left the administration in 2010. “We were hoping to get somebody and make people realize that there are consequences to this and it needed to stop."
My, my. Our national leaders are wonderfully charming fellows who express themselves in charmingly colorful ways. Yet we must acknowledge that destroying people's lives -- and even murdering them -- can be a very effective deterrent.

Imagine the uproar that would have ensued if a person holding a leading position in the Bush administration had expressed himself in this manner. We don't have to imagine that: we witnessed that scenario being played out countless times. And the NYT, somewhat to my surprise -- although they buried it in the middle of the article, where hopefully few people will notice it -- identifies the wondrous difference Obama makes:
President Bush also faced damaging leaks during his tenure. But his Justice Department prosecuted only one official under the Espionage Act for disclosing national security secrets, a Pentagon analyst first investigated in 2004 and convicted in 2006. As a conservative, President Bush would have faced a greater public backlash had he sought to imprison leakers, said Gabriel Schoenfeld, a senior scholar with the Hudson Institute, a conservative-leaning research organization.
It's very thoughtful of the Times to bury this in the middle of the article, and also to attribute the view to a person affiliated with a conservative think tank. In this way, all the liberals and progressives so devoted to protecting Obama can dismiss the criticism as nothing more than the opinion of a rightwing wacko. Nonetheless, we all know -- and all the liberals and progressives know -- that Obama has completely neutered all the arguments once offered against Bush's policies, policies which Obama has rigorously adopted, often expanding and worsening them in monstrous fashion.

And you might think that all the recent revelations about government surveillance have caused the Obama administration to temper its pursuit of leakers. Of course, you would be wrong. The Times discusses the administration's next target -- precisely the kind of "top-level target" they have long wanted. That would be retired general James E. Cartwright, who "has been identified as a focus of an investigation into the disclosure of classified information about American-led cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear program."

It is true that Holder has offered a few conciliatory gestures, but this is merely play-acting:
Implicitly at least, Mr. Holder seemed to acknowledge some of the criticism this month when he restored and bolstered longstanding Justice Department restraints on seeking evidence from journalists. He said those restrictions “will help ensure the proper balance is struck when pursuing investigations into unauthorized disclosures.

Mr. Holder’s move came in response to a torrent of criticism after the revelations this spring that prosecutors had secretly subpoenaed the phone logs for more than 20 phone lines of The Associated Press in one leak inquiry and two days of phone logs of a Fox News reporter, James Rosen, in another investigation aimed at a State Department adviser, Stephen Jin-Woo Kim. Prosecutors also obtained a court-ordered search warrant for Mr. Rosen’s e-mails by identifying him as a criminal co-conspirator of Mr. Kim’s.
We know Holder is only offering a pretense at conciliation because, in addition to the pursuit of Cartwright (and Manning, and Snowden, and and and), the administration's "aggressive pursuit of leaks and leakers" has "also led to a significant legal victory on Friday when a federal appeals court accepted the Justice Department’s argument that the First Amendment does not protect reporters from having to reveal the sources suspected of leaking information to them."

It's breathtaking, isn't it? Obama, heralded as the great new progressive leader, who would thankfully reverse the abominations of the Bush years -- and here he is, pursuing policies across the board in ways that Bush would never have dared. I can only hope that the intense envy Dick Cheney must feel doesn't kill him. Hmm ... on second thought ...

No. No. That would hardly be Christian of me. Of course, I'm not a Christian, so ... anyway, Cheney's not in power now. Obama is. Obama, the gift that keeps on giving -- if what you want is a State dedicated to murder across the globe, surveillance of everyone and everything, and the destruction of all those who do not belong to the ruling class. The obliteration of liberals and progressives as a political force for anything remotely decent and humane is gravy. Given the obloquy and contempt that liberals and progressives have merited for some years now, that is hardly a loss to be mourned.

And to think that Obama has three and a half more years ... is there anything he can't do? I don't think I want to know the answer to that.