WASHINGTON — Senior members of Congress — both Republicans and Democrats — are reacting with shock and awe at the tsunami of national security leaks emanating from the Obama administration. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Greta Van Susteren on Fox News Channel that the unauthorized disclosures of classified information are "the most egregious breach of national security" he ever has seen. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told reporters this week, "The accelerating pace of such disclosures, the sensitivity of the matters in question and the harm caused to our national security interests is alarming and unacceptable."
McCain and Feinstein — and others in both parties expressing dismay at the disclosures — shouldn't be surprised. The officials in the Obama administration who tell reporters classified details about SEAL team raids, Stuxnet, "kill lists" for targeted attacks on high-value targets and ongoing covert operations in foreign countries are doing exactly what the commander in chief wants. He told us so on the day of his inauguration.
Reading from a teleprompter in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, the new president instructed his senior White House staff and Cabinet: "The way to make government accountable is to make it transparent so that the American people can know exactly what decisions are being made, how they're being made and whether their interests are being well-served. ... For a long time now, there's been too much secrecy in this city. ... Starting today, every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information but those who seek to make it known."
The leakers simply are following his orders. That's what makes the quotes attributed to "unnamed senior administration officials" or "anonymous White House sources" so curious. If the O-Team really is intent on letting us "know exactly what decisions are being made" and "how they're being made" so we can determine whether our "interests are being well-served," why doesn't it let the names be used by reporters, writers and producers?
We all know why. The Obama administration's purveyors of classified information cited almost daily in our media don't really care about our interests. Their goal is to show us how brave, bold, daring and smart they are — and how careful, competent, engaged and tough our president is. Regrettably, the leaks aren't just coming from political appointees — the ones Obama was talking to Jan. 21, 2009. Now the leakers are in our military and intelligence services, as well. A Washington Post column this week titled "U.S. expands secret intelligence operations in Africa" cites "a senior U.S. military official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters."
All this proves that leadership really does matter. The example set at the top is reflected in the behavior of others all the way down the chain of command. It is OK to disclose legitimate secrets that threaten our national security, put the lives of others in jeopardy, compromise sensitive operational capabilities and wreck relations with allies — as long as the O-Team looks good in the leak.
Notably, the word "transparent" no longer appears in the president's prepared speeches. That's probably because there was no transparency in drafting his Obamacare legislation, new Environmental Protection Agency regulations on drilling for oil, federal loans to green energy companies such as Solyndra or the Department of Homeland Security's warning about "disgruntled war veterans" being a threat. The public never has been told how the Obama administration decided that the massacre at Fort Hood was "workplace violence" instead of a radical Islamic terror attack. Nor does the O-Team want to respond to legitimate congressional inquiries about the Justice Department's infamous "Fast and Furious" gunrunning operation.
It's only in the president's unscripted remarks that we now find examples of inadvertent transparency. There's his sotto voce plea to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on ballistic missile defense: "This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility." Last week, it was his comment that "the private sector is doing fine." This week, he claimed that "Europe is our No. 1 trading partner" in an attempt to explain America's economic woes. Let's hope that he has since learned Europe is fourth, behind Canada, China and Mexico.
O-Team sycophants and fawning members of the Fourth Estate excuse these slip-ups as "minor gaffes." They're not. Coupled with the hemorrhage of self-serving leaks, the Obama administration is shown to be worse than feckless.
In less than 144 days, Americans go to the polls. We are being told by the so-called mainstream media and competing campaign operatives that this year's presidential election is about which candidate has the best "vision" for "fixing" or "restoring" or "repairing" the U.S. economy. That's important. But so is our ability to defend ourselves against our adversaries.
Those urging us to hire a new commander in chief in November must address how he could do better at protecting our national security and our people. If they fail to do so, they will show themselves to be as incompetent as the supporters of the one they seek to replace.
Oliver North is the host of "War Stories" on Fox News Channel, the founder and honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance, and the author of "American Heroes in Special Operations." To find out more about Oliver North and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.