The Stuxnet leak investigation

Marc Thiessen:
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The leaks clearly came from someone in the president’s inner circle. As The Post explains, “Knowledge of the virus was likely to have been highly compartmentalized and limited to a small set of Americans and Israelis.” Moreover, whoever leaked the information was present when the president discussed this covert action program in the Situation Room. There is a tiny universe of individuals who could have shared the details of President Obama’s personal deliberations on the covert program with the press.

This means there are essentially two possibilities for how the information got out.

Possibility No. 1: A senior administration or White House official disclosed the information to the press without the president’s personal approval.

That would be a potential crime and certainly a violation of the official’s oath of office — and in the case of a White House official, a violation of their contractual commitment to the Executive Office of the President. As one former senior Justice Department official told me, “It would be grounds for firing and likely prosecution, and it would definitely call into question the competency and security of the president’s supervision of his White House staff.”

Possibility No. 2: The president personally authorized a senior official to disclose classified and sensitive national security information regarding ongoing intelligence or counterterrorism operations.

This is potentially an even bigger scandal. Since the president has ultimate declassification authority, this would mean no crime was likely committed. But it is hard to imagine a credible argument that such a disclosure was made to advance the national security interests of the United States.

Quite the opposite, the Stuxnet leak was incredibly damaging. It exposed intelligence sources and methods, including the top secret codename for the program (“Olympic Games”). And it exposed the involvement of a U.S. ally, Israel. At one point in the New York Times story, a source says the Israelis were responsible for an error in the code who allowed it to replicate itself all around the world. The Times directly quotes one of the president’s briefers telling him “We think there was a modification done by the Israelis,” adding that “Mr. Obama, according to officials in the room, asked a series of questions, fearful that the code could do damage outside the plant. The answers came back in hedged terms. Mr. Biden fumed. ‘It’s got to be the Israelis,’ he said. ‘They went too far’” (emphasis added).

So a person who was “in the room” when the president and vice president were briefed publicly confirmed Israeli involvement in a covert action against Iran. The damage this did — both to the operation and the trust between our two countries — is incalculable.

There are no credible national security grounds for such a disclosure. The only person whose interests could possibly be served by such a disclosure was Obama. The leak appeared six months before the president stood for reelection and was clearly intended to make Obama appear strong on foreign policy and counterterrorism. (One anonymous senior official is quoted by the Times as saying “From his first days in office, he was deep into every step in slowing the Iranian program — the diplomacy, the sanctions, every major decision.”)

If the president authorized the disclosure of national security secrets that exposed a covert action and undermined a U.S. ally in an effort to gain a political advantage in his reelection campaign, that would be a scandal of gigantic proportions. As one former top Justice Department official told me “if done for political gain, rather than for a bona fide purpose advancing the public interests of the United States, it could be grounds for impeachment.”
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Democrats are far to partisan to conduct an impeachment trial in the Senate on a good faith basis.  They will see the issues as political regardless of the harm done to national security and to the US economy which has seen various backing institution under attack from Iran since the leaks were revealed by the NY Times.  My speculation is that when the leaker is found and brought to trial that person will bite their lips and not reveal the President's role in the leaks.

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