Andy McCarthy is a pretty smart guy. He worked in the United States Attorneys’ office for the Southern District of New York. Those in the legal profession will tell you that is a tough job to get – only the best of the best get appointed to serve in those jobs. What’s more, Andy McCarthy lead the team that tried and convicted 11 defendants, including the blind sheik, for the 1993 World Trade Center bombings. I could go on, but this alone makes the point. Andy McCarthy knows all there is to know about the law and terrorism.
It is because of these credentials that I paused a little longer when he opined this week on the intelligence leaks by the Obama Administration. His point of view surprised some, but he has this one right.
While the issue came to a boil over a recent New York Times article, it is undisputable that the Obama Administration has been leaking sensitive information for some time. How can anyone forget the anger of those in the intelligence community – and that of the very Navy Seals that accomplished the mission – when the President was found on television just hours after the raid that killed Bin Laden telling the world, including all the bad guys in it, about all the intelligence the Seals had gathered as part of the raid? Now we have news about kill lists, covert electronic operations with Israel, and other highly sensitive information being leaked to make him look strong on national security in an election year.
As an initial matter, this simply reinforces the arrogance of Obama. Every move he makes is a self-aggrandizing political decision to further his own popularity or agenda. If it has a negative affect on the rest of the country or anyone living in it? So be it.
The larger issue, however, is an assessment of how bad the damage might be and what should be done about it. While we will never know the full measure of the damage done because of our inability to get in the head of both our allies and the bad guys, to argue there is no harm is beyond ridiculous. Our intelligence capabilities, which have been up for criticism in the last decade for a magnitude of failures, will take huge hits with foreign governments.
For example, is there much doubt that Israel will be disinclined to share with the Obama Administration if and when it intends to strike Iran? Isn’t that something we would want to know in advance given the powder keg it could set off?
As Andy McCarthy said though, what we do about it is a political decision. And Republicans would be wise to remain consistent.
Legally, the Executive Branch decides what constitutes classified information and what does not. Since the Administration has that power, in a nice lawyer trick that Obama seems very adept at, he can simply state that the information leaked has been declassified and that is enough to make it impossible to prosecute the leaker. In fact, given the nature of the leaks, it is likely Obama knew of them, or worse still, even authorized them. Motivation is irrelevant from a legal perspective, as it was in the Scooter Libby case. As McCarthy says, the information is no longer classified if the President deems it as such. Regardless, does anyone really believe Attorney General Eric Holder would allow a legitimate investigation and prosecution to take place?
The answer is, in fact, political as McCarthy suggests. It is imperative to the survival of this great country that President Obama is not re-elected this fall. Aside from all the problems he is causing in the economy, he is doing immense damage to an intelligence infrastructure that takes years – and yes billions of dollars – to build. Moreover, he is making it very hard for the rest of the world to trust us with the information that is so important to national security, diplomacy, and other statecraft.