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Hullabaloo


Thursday, August 29, 2013

 
About those war plans ....

by digby

I was wondering about this rather detailed, voluminous amount of information being leaked pertaining to specifics of the proposed bombing campaign in Syria.  Obviously, the administration believes that there is some utility in leaking this information and I suppose it's one thing if it's designed to fake out Assad or allow for some kind of surprise.  But it seems to me that it's a little bit less understandable if it's being done to build political support here at home.  After all, this administration has been absolute hell on leakers:
The administration has gone after Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, journalists, midlevel federal officials and even Hoss Cartwright, a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, over various allegations stemming from the release of classified information.

“Leaks related to national security can put people at risk,” Obama said in May as he defended criminal probes of leakers. “I make no apologies, and I don’t think the American people would expect me as commander in chief not to be concerned about information that might compromise their missions or might get them killed.”

And, in June, McClatchy reported on an administration-wide “Internal Threat Program” designed to get federal employees to spy on each other and report information-sharing abuses 
Fast-forward a few months, and Obama administration officials, eager to make the case that Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons on his own people and that the United States should launch reprisal strikes against him, have been talking out of school.

Citing a “wide range of officials,” The New York Times reported on Tuesday that an assault would be “limited.” The story further reported “scores of Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from American destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea” would be “aimed at military units that have carried out chemical attacks, the headquarters overseeing the effort and the rockets and artillery that have launched the attacks.” The story included the tidbit that the number of potential targets numbered fewer than 50 — and it wasn’t the week’s only report on operational planning.

The juxtaposition of the recent string of anonymous quote-fueled stories with the administration’s history of cracking down on certain leakers has given fodder to the president’s critics on both the right and the left, particularly as the White House makes the case for launching military strikes.

“This isn’t unique to the Obama administration. It’s a problem that transcends party. But we have expressed concern in the past with selective leaking,” said Gabe Rottman, legislative counsel and policy director in the ACLU’s Washington office. “The administration, because of the way in which the system works, has the ability to, in the case of possibly Syria, leak in its interest. But when you have leaks in the public interest that might be embarrassing, it gets treated as espionage.”
I guess the commander in chief gets to decide if he wants to leak something, but there is something very unseemly about being so harsh that you would go after journalists for publishing leaks but leaking war plans(supposedly the absolute worst kind of leak there could be) to bolster your political position. It may be legal, but it sure doesn't look good.

Meanwhile, I'm sure everyone's heard by now that the Brits voted down their participation in a non UN sanctioned strike --- against PM Cameron's wishes.

They got to vote on it. Imagine that.


Update: Grayson comes out swinging and points out the obvious: we don't know for a fact that Assad ordered the use of chemical weapons and we don't even know for sure what chemical weapons were used, if any. There are inspectors on the ground and it is vitally necessary to allow them to do their work and prove to the world that this isn't another instance of the US playing fast and loose with the facts in order to justify a military action.

If you are not skeptical of all this simply based on our recent track record, I would urge you to take a look at this very, very interesting piece by Emptywheel:
Let’s take a step back. 
Idris defected — at least publicly — from Assad’s army last July, around the same time as then CIA Director David Petraeus and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unsuccessfully lobbied to start arming the rebels, and the month before Obama laid out chemical weapon use as his “red line.” 
Idris was elected — thanks to a lot of arm twisting by US and its allies — to command the Free Syrian Army in December, just weeks after a chemical weapons incident I’ve been obsessing on. Shortly after his election, Idris gave a number of interviews in which he emphasized two things: that his people had an eye on Assad’s CW, and that Assad would use them if he got cornered. 
The new Syrian rebel commander has told The Associated Press that his fighters are monitoring the regime’s chemical weapons sites, but don’t have the means to seize and secure them. 
Gen. Salim Idris, who defected from the Syrian army in July, says he is “very afraid” a cornered regime will use chemical weapons in Syria’s civil war. Syria is said to have one of the world’s largest chemical arsenals. 
Effectively, Idris was repeating the line intelligence analysts had given just weeks earlier (or they had been repeating what he told them), even while suggesting his men were the ones watching over the CW.
If that has you curious, read the whole thing. I'm sorry, this is exactly the sort of pattern that makes me skeptical.
.