Obama Uses Security Leaks to Craft Image


Buried in the second-to-last paragraph of a New Republic article about renowned secrecy of the Supreme Court is a startling accusation from Harvard law professor and former Supreme Court clerk Jack Goldsmith: The Obama administration uses leaks to shape the president’s image as a tough, decisive leader.

Government officials also spill secrets for less exalted reasons. For years, the Obama administration has disclosed details about its targeted-killing operations, in part to show itself, and especially the commander-in-chief, in a good light. As White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel “pushed the CIA to publicize its kinetic successes” for just this reason, reports Daniel Klaidman in his book, Kill or Capture. This manipulation of the secrecy system by senior officials sends a permissive message to subordinates that is the opposite of the one the justices send to their clerks. Emboldened lower level officials become disrespectful of the secrecy system and sometimes disclose classified information to spin an operation in their favor, to settle a bureaucratic score, or to appear important.