The leakers: Mr. Snowden and Secretary Gates

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates (PHOTO:  Pentagon)

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates (PHOTO: Pentagon)

As a journalist who leans instinctively toward public disclosure and open debate, I’ve perched precariously on the fence when it comes to the fate of NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

Screen capture from an Edward Snowden interview, reproduced on Wikipedia with permission from Prism Films

Screen capture from an Edward Snowden interview, reproduced on Wikipedia with permission from Prism Films

Snowden – who remains a fugitive from American justice in Russia — cracked open a national, and in many ways a global, debate over government spying and the ways that our Federal intelligence agencies are monitoring US citizens.

He single-handedly sparked the kind of conversation that open, free societies need to have on a regular basis, especially in times of war about the measures we’re willing to take to protect ourselves.

How much freedom are we willing to sacrifice?  How much of our privacy will we hand over to secret courts and unnamed government bureaucrats?

How effective, really, are the oversight committees and judicial restraints on the proliferating espionage agencies, from the NSA to the CIA to the FBI to the many municipal police departments that now operate intelligence programs?

Snowden blew that whole series of questions wide open.

But I still think it’s important to acknowledge that in a time of war — and I do think that Islamic radicals remain a serious threat to the US and our security — giving up national defense secrets, even for the best possible reasons, can amount to an act of treason.

Some observers have pointed out that Mr. Snowden is really two things at once, a hero who shined a powerful light on our own government’s secret monitoring of its citizens, and a traitor whose actions may have put our nation at increased risk.

I think that’s fair.  But the conversation about Snowden’s fate has been further complicated this week by another set of leaks, these offered up by none other former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Secretary Gates’ new tell-all book reveals the inner workings of President Barack Obama’s White House when it came to framing national security issues and the war in Afghanistan.

Secretary Gates doesn’t just tip the public to intelligence gathering techniques and the clandestine workings of the NSA.  He allows the world to pry into the secret deliberations of our top military leaders, our commander in chief, revealing Mr. Obama’s hidden doubts and reservations.

“As I sat there,” Secretary Gates recounts, describing a closed-door meeting with Mr. Obama, “I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his. For him, it’s all about getting out.”

This is, arguably, important information for the public to have and I think Secretary Gates should probably be free to disclose it.  Again, in a free society we should know what our president’s motivations are, even in times of conflict.

But Secretary Gates cracked open the inner workings of our president’s war policy in Afghanistan — revealing private information that will, plausibly, hearten our enemies.

He also offered up controversial information about Mr. Obama’s relationship with a foreign leader, Mr. Karzai, at a time when we still have more than 20,000 US service-members in harm’s way in that country.

Secretary Gates disclosed deep divisions between the military and civilian leadership within the administration and the Pentagon.  He also suggested that our troops continue to die in Afghanistan for cause in which Mr. Obama no longer believes.

Imagine a former defense secretary offering up similar information about a commander in chief’s secret deliberations during World War II or Korea or Vietnam while our troops were still in harms way in those conflicts.

It is nearly inconceivable.

Again, because of my predilection toward transparency, I think both men should be respected for having the courage to take the extraordinary step of pulling back the curtain on troubling aspects of America’s war on terror.

Is it possible that their revelations will do some harm to our security and result in some loss of life?  Sadly, yes.

But in a free society, that’s what patriots fight and die for — championing freedom not only from foreign threats but from domestic power and tyranny.

Yet for Secretary Gates to be feted in Washington and invited on the Sunday talk shows for his honesty and outspokenness while Mr. Snowden is forced to live as a fugitive?

That apparent double-standard opens the door to new and even more troubling questions about how we plan to carry on this conversation about freedom, national security, and transparency.

58 Comments on “The leakers: Mr. Snowden and Secretary Gates”

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  1. David Duff says:

    Brian- referencing your comment”in time of war”- how do Snowden’s revelations warrant different treatment/prosecution than Daniel Ellsburg or former sec. Gates? Increasingly the focus on guilt or innocence pulls the sunshine off of the NSA’s behavior-and those trying to defend it because of their support of and defense of such behavior. To my way of thinking this is all about shooting the messenger because we don’t like the message. Snowden’s not the evil one- it’s those that wish to silence him. Secrets are beneficial only to those that know the secret-and protect the secrecy and it’s validity to protect themselves-not the rest of us as self righteously proclaimed by those in the know.

  2. Paul says:

    I would assume that Gates’ book had to be vetted by the intelligence community prior to publication. No? Seems like a big difference between the two.

  3. brian mann says:

    Paul –

    If you’re comfortable with the intelligence community being the arbiter of who can or cannot say what about these matters, that’s probably the end of the conversation.

    On the other hand, if the facts suggest a possible double standard — one man leaking the inner workings of Mr. Obama’s interactions with his generals with impunity, the other man leaking information about NSA methods and facing prosecution – then perhaps more discussion is needed.

    –Brian, NCPR

  4. Paul says:

    Brian, I was just saying that this book cannot (and does not) contain any information that is considered classified. If it did Gates would be a criminal suspect as well. The Secretary of State has a duty to the constitution not to the president. The problem here is that if he thought that there was a problem with leadership at the White House he should have raised the issue then. That was his job, not to complain about it now.

    If this information has the potential to cause the harm you think it might I totally agree it should have been classified and they could have allowed him to publish this at a later date. I suspect that it isn’t harmful with the exception of the political fall out.

  5. TomL says:

    Good post. I am convinced that what Snowden did will go down as a great service to our democracy. It was intended to make a difference, and I hope eventually will. What Gates has done is self-serving and destructive. It won’t make a difference, and is only intended to puff Gates’ reputation (and maybe make some money).

    As for
    “As I sat there,” Secretary Gates recounts, describing a closed-door meeting with Mr. Obama, “I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his. For him, it’s all about getting out.”
    It shouldn’t surprise anyone. I see that statement as a CREDIT to Obama’s good sense.

  6. Paul says:

    “doesn’t believe in his own strategy”. I assume that we think that Gates is wrong in his thinking? Otherwise the President isn’t doing his job. Same goes for not trusting his commander. If he doesn’t and he doesn’t relieve him he also isn’t doing his job.

  7. brian mann says:

    Paul –

    I’m saying that I’m not comfortable allowing the intelligence community to use a word like “classified” to arbitrate this discussion.

    On the one hand, Snowden revealed the inner workings of the NSA, potentially endangering operatives, and putting our intelligence gathering methods at risk. Those are real concerns.

    Meanwhile, Gates revealed the inner workings of our commander in chief dealing privately with his generals during a time of active-fire war, revealing (among other things) Obama’s disdain for a foreign leader in a country where we now have boots on the ground.

    If the one is prosecuted while the other goes to dinner parties in Georgetown, I’d like a clear explanation as to why.

    –Brian, NCPR

  8. Mervel says:

    But our government HAS to make decisions about what is classified and what is not. Who else would do that? Would we put it to a vote, would journalists decide? This is not a grey area when it comes to something that is classified or not. The fact is there is information which is officially classified; it is not a mystery. When you get a security clearance all the way from confidential through top secret and higher; you are told exactly what the boundaries are, when you are cleared into specific programs you are told what exactly is classified. In some cases the entire program is black or totally classified meaning you can never talk about it, ever.

    Now these decisions may be incorrect or over reaching but that is a different discussion.

    Snowden when he was cleared to work at the NSA took an oath not to reveal specific secrets that he had access too, Mr. Gates did also. If Gate’s opinions and musings about the president was a classified program or a classified bit of info than he should be prosecuted, it not than no.

    I don’t think Snowden and Gates are comparable at all. However I agree that Snowden is a two edged deal. This is the hard part. Just because something is classified does not mean that it is not illegal, and often times we are finding out some of these things have been.

  9. brian mann says:

    Mervel –

    That’s what I want, a discussion. Again, I want a clear-eyed discussion of why Snowden is a fugitive for revealing the inner workings of the NSA and Gates is not a fugitive after revealing Obama’s private conversations with his generals. What are the differences?

    Why is the one a threat to national security while the other is not? Who made the decisions that Gates’ revelations were sanctioned? I’d also like to hear Gates explain how he views his leaks. Were they good for the country in some way? If so, how does that benefit differ from the impacts of Snowden’s leaks?

    And again, I personally and as a journalist am not particularly interested in a semantic or legal discussion of what intelligence agencies labeled “classified.” I want a substantive discussion of real-world impacts and thinking.

    I think it’s also fair to probe whether the two men’s relative positions are a factor, the one being one of the more powerful men in Washington, the other being a low-level operative.

    It may be that there are real, material differences here that put Snowden in the category of criminal and Gates in the category of public official writing his memoirs. They remain obscure to me at this point.

    –Brian, NCPR

  10. The Original Larry says:

    “As I sat there,” Secretary Gates recounts, describing a closed-door meeting with Mr. Obama, “I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his. For him, it’s all about getting out.”

    Astounding that anyone thinks this shows Obama’s “good sense”. Maybe if he were a private citizen, but certainly not as Commander-in-Chief and President. Can you imagine the results if previous leaders (Churchill or Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis, for example) had shown anything less than the unshakeable certitude that they did?

  11. dave says:

    “Can you imagine the results if previous leaders (Churchill or Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis, for example) had shown anything less than the unshakeable certitude that they did?”

    Oh, you mean the kind of unshakeable certitude shown by his predecessor when he took us into this quagmire in the first place?

    A bad idea, no matter how confident or certain someone might be about it, is still a bad idea. I’ll take someone a little less “certain” as long as they are actually thinking through the issue and arriving at the right decisions, which, in this case, is ‘getting out’

  12. The Original Larry says:

    Categorizing Gates’s memoirs as “leaks” prejudices the discussion you say you want against him. Making classified documents public can’t be anything else but a leak. Impact alone doesn’t make something a leak; every important official’s thoughts and opinions have an impact. How could Gates’s revelations be harmful to anyone other than Obama? Obama’s actions, harmful or not, are already obvious.

  13. The Original Larry says:

    I guess the only hope of making Obama look good by now is to continue to compare him to Bush, and I’m not sure even that works, but that wasn’t the comparison I made. And for all his “good sense”, how is it that we are still there after five years of the Obama presidency? How is that that there are still about 50% more troops there now as when Bush was President? I guess good sense isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

  14. David Duff says:

    Don’t mean to state the obvious but Sec. Gates has name recognition and a title- even used when no longer in the position. A lot of folks with similar titles that are/were associated with him have much influence and much to lose if his revelations are pursued with the vengeance that pursues Snowden. Snowden was a private contractor and anonymous until his revelations. Which one would you pursue if you wanted this to all go away quickly? Certainly not the one at a cocktail party in Georgetown.

  15. Mervel says:

    But Brian,

    Snowden is not a fugitive for revealing the inner workings of the NSA. He is a fugitive for breaking the law concerning treason, which is very specific; if you have a security clearance and sign an oath that you will not reveal specific secrets or specific programs XY or Z; then you are breaking the law if you do. We the general public do not get to decide what the military and intelligence communities deem as classified; legalities DO matter in this case.

    The cases are not at all alike unless what Gates revealed in his book was indeed classified information. As defense secretary he would know that definition and would have been involved in deciding what is classified. These are not random decisions, they have to do with damage to our national security and possibly American lives.

    Now I think a great discussion would be what is a leak? Is it a leak to kind of fink on your employer as I think Gates did in this case, I personally don’t think he should have written this book until Obama was out if he had unflattering things to say. However that is different from revealing state secrets, state secrets are not a grey area. If the NSA has a secret program that is officially classified it is a crime to reveal them, revealing that Obama makes decisions based on politics is probably not classified information.

  16. Mervel says:

    Now if Gates had revealed that Obama and his generals had a specific discussion about the Genesis program at the NSA and that program did this and worked like this; and that program was a classified program, then you would have a comparable situation.

  17. Walker says:

    “…state secrets are not a grey area…”

    Well, right, they are either classified as secret, or not.

    On the other hand, we have all seen examples of things that were classified secret that shouldn’t have been. Maybe we need a law providing criminal penalties for misuse of the secret classification. ‘Course, someone would have to actually get prosecuted before it would do any good.

  18. brian mann says:

    Mervel –

    I think this is where we agree: “Now I think a great discussion would be what is a leak?”

    Sec. Gates revealed the inner workings of the President and his war council in a time of armed conflict.

    Mr. Snowden reveals secret NSA surveillance measures — including surveillance measures that collect data on innocent US citizens — also in a time of armed conflict.

    You continue to argue that, a priori, these are two separate and distint things. My question — and this is where we disagree — Why?

    Why can Sec Gates reveal the confidential deliberations of our nation’s top military commander and his generals with impunity while Mr. Snowden faces prosecution for revealing secret espionage methods?

    I don’t want to simply be told that one is confidential and the other is not. I want someone to explain why Mr. Snowden’s leak threatens national security in a way that Mr. Gates’ leak does not.

    I want to someone to explore why Secretary Gates was cleared, in a time of war, to talk about closed-door meetings between Mr. Obama and his generals.

    I want someone to explain why Mr. Snowden’s leaks arguably put our service-members and intelligence agents at greater risk while Secretary Gates revelations arguably do not.

    –Brian, NCPR

  19. The Original Larry says:

    Obama’s actions are already public knowledge; Gates is providing background on things that have already happened. Snowden, on the other hand, revealed details of ongoing, secret operations.

  20. brian mann says:

    OL –

    More than 20,000 American service members are currently deployed in Afghanistan. Our former defense secretary has now revealed that Mr. Obama despises the head of state of Afghanistan. It’s hard for me not to put that disclosure on par with the Wikileaks or Snowden disclosures.

    And Afghanistan has not “already happened.” We’re there now. Eight of our service members have died under hostile fire in the last month alone.

    -Brian, NCPR

    –Brian, NCPR

  21. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    “Mr. Snowden is really two things at once, a hero who shined a powerful light on our own government’s secret monitoring of its citizens, and a traitor whose actions may have put our nation at increased risk.”

    I agree that Snowden’s actions are double edged but I’m not certain they rise to the level of treason. Was his motivation to harm the US? Then it was treason. But if his revelation was motivated by the real desire to correct injustices within the government he may have committed crimes but not of being a traitor.

    Remember the Nuremberg Trials. People who are sworn to follow chain of command or to defend the Constitution will at times find themselves in a conflicted situation and the morally correct thing might be to break the law.

  22. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    So here is one difference between Snowden and Gates. Gates is making money from his book. Snowden, from what I know, has not sought personal gain.

  23. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Secrecy itself is a huge problem in this country. There is far too much information that should be in the public realm. Information itself can be a double edged sword. The same information might at once be used by an enemy to harm us or to a citizen to help keep us safe.

    Often information that is already in the hands of “the enemy” is classified and in a few bizarre situations information that was printed in newspapers was retroactively classified as secret. It’s like a Gogol-Orwell mashup!

  24. The Original Larry says:

    Obama’s opinion of Karzai is hardly news: NPR reported on the strained relationship in May of 2010 and there may well have been reports from earlier than that. How is anyone more at risk today?

  25. myown says:

    Yes there are plenty of double standards and hypocrisy involving national security information:
    Why wasn’t Cheney prosecuted for divulging CIA agent Plume’s name?
    Why wasn’t CIA Director Panetta prosecuted for giving classified info to the makers of “Zero Dark Thirty”?
    Why isn’t Clapper being prosecuted for directly lying to Congress?

    And Gates writes a book detailing sensitive dealings within a current administration that he just served in. What is the purpose of his book? Are we supposed to gain some insight that will make us a better country? Or is he just padding his retirement account?

    Snowden on the other gave up job security and most of everything else in his life to share his knowledge of illegal programs being conducted secretly by the government. There is no evidence that any of Snowden’s information has compromised national security. The surveillance programs that have been divulged would hardly surprise any serious terrorists. It is the American people and Congress who are the ones that are shocked.

    Cheney, Panetta, Clapper, Gates and others are part of the Washington establishment where there is rarely any personal accountability. On the other hand, Snowden’s “crime” was embarrassing the Obama administration by revealing illegal programs they have supported and showing that NSA staff have been lying to Congress about it.

    There needs to be a serious discussion in this country about surveillance and digital data collection that is occurring by the government and corporations (yes, like Google). It is my opinion both need to be reined in with new digital privacy rights for private citizens.

    We also need better definitions of what should be “classified.” Every administration increasingly uses that label to hide their dirty laundry. In an open Democracy, the hurdle for keeping secrets should be extremely high. Yet the last two administrations have been quick to claim “state secret” to prevent even individuals from going to court to seek redress for alleged harm by the government. And the whole FISA court is a joke that Congress established so they could claim ignorance when revelations like Snowden’s come out. What is the purpose of a secret court? I mean why even bother. They have just about never declined a request by one of our spying agencies, even the open ended ones allowing mass collection of data on US citizens.

    Much of Federal money for the NSA and CIA go to a handful of huge corporations. And the door between the agencies, corporations, politicians and the military are constantly revolving. The NSA/CIA/Military are out of control. There is no effective oversight of any of them. When the NSA director can order his command center be designed as a replica of Captain Kirk’s Starship Enterprise station there obviously is no one high enough in government that can say no. So who really is in charge?

  26. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I haven’t read Gates’ book but I wonder if he details any of the discussions within the GHW Bush administration when he was Deputy National Security Advisor and director of the CIA, or about his service as Deputy Director of the CIA under Reagan and GHWB – the time when the CIA was funding Islamist Extremists (along with Pakistan’s ISI) to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan and then after the Soviets left when the CIA along with the ISI helped fund Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and his Hezbi Islami faction that largely started the Afghan Civil War which in turn led to the CIA helping to fund the Taliban in order to end the civil war.

    Oh, but all of our leader’s actions in those situations are probably secret. In the end though it seems pretty likely that the actions of the CIA are largely responsible for the rise of several extremely dangerous Islamic radical groups including bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

    And let’s not forget that it was the Bush 2 administration that installed Karzai as president in Afghanistan then promptly left to start a war in Iraq based on faked intelligence. Karzai, left swinging in the wind and having had a couple of assassinations attempts on him – which he may have believed were sanctioned by the CIA – started going off the Reservation (why not? Afghans could easily play Indians in a movie) and making his own policies. We started calling him crazy but let’s remember that he was the guy our CIA vetted to be president. We don’t trust Karzai, Karzai doesn’t trust us, and chances are he is pretty mentally unstable because who wouldn’t be in his situation?

    Meanwhile Obama has to come in and clean up this giant mess that Gates helped to create, but Obama keeps Gates on thinking that Gates knows where all the bodies are buried (so to speak) and Gates has the gall to blab on Obama?

    Review everything I have written above for accuracy and then tell me who likely created more danger for America, Snowden or Gates?

  27. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Of course Gates was just doing his job when he helped direct the CIA to fund Islamic Terrorists.

  28. The Original Larry says:

    As a last resort, blame Bush! Meanwhile, nobody answers when I ask what has Obama been doing these last five years, with the war he doesn’t want, the commanders he doesn’t trust and the ally he despises? How did we wind up with more troops in Afghanistan under Obama than under Bush?

  29. J G King says:

    Patriot: a person who vigorously supports that person’s country and defends it against enemies or detractors from without or within.

    Criminal: a person who has committed a crime.

    Snowden is both; Gates is neither

    A test of patriotism might be to “pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor”, and then make good on that pledge. Snowden passes. Gates falls short. Each man who made this pledge in 1776 was both patriot and criminal.

  30. brian mann says:

    OL –

    Here’s the point I’m making distilled.

    One of Gates’ chief arguments in this book is that Barack Obama had secret motivations and views about this war — a conflict that we’re still fighting, with service-members still dying almost every day.

    When a former Defense Secretary releases that kind of privileged, closed-door access information about the nation’s commander in chief — his views on our allies, on our generals, on our overall strategies — while the US military is still in a hostile fire environment, that strikes me as a fundamentally profound disclosure.

    Again, I try to think of parrallels in past conflicts and can’t. Some of you are far better historians than me, so I’m open to be corrected or educated on this point.

    But given what Gates leaked here, my question remains very simple:

    How do Gates’ disclosures about military operations and diplomatic relations in Afghanistan differ materially from Snowden’s disclosures about internal NSA operations?

    Why is the one viewed as a traditional Washington memoir, while the other is viewed as a subversive leak?

    –Brian, NCPR

  31. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    OL, I wasn’t “blaming Bush” I was making a comparison to actual events that happened during Gates’ tenure under 3 other Presidents, Reagan, Bush 1, and Bush 2. Clinton had his own problems but Gates didn’t work for Clinton so that isn’t germane. Same with Carter.

    How did more troops end up in Afghanistan under Obama? The strategy called the “Surge”.

    Why do I bring up other aspects of Gates’ public service that may or may not be in his book? Because I wonder if there is some pattern to his revelation of privileged discussions. Gates’ book was certainly cleared by the CIA and probably other agencies before publication but he was a boss and bosses often get different treatment than underlings. Look at Nixon. Meanwhile lackeys like Snowden who try to bring questionable practices to the attention of their superiors often get slapped down, fired, or prosecuted. That is apparently why Snowden became a public whistleblower, because so often working through channels has no tangible positive result.

  32. The Original Larry says:

    “And let’s not forget that it was the Bush 2 administration that installed Karzai as president in Afghanistan then promptly left to start a war in Iraq based on faked intelligence.”


    “Meanwhile Obama has to come in and clean up this giant mess that Gates helped to create,”

    If that’s not blame, then what is it? Must everything Obama does be balanced by a negative reference to his predecessors? Was the surge part of the strategy Obama didn’t believe in or was it the action of one of the commanders he didn’t trust? This guy wants to be an innocent bystander whenever things go wrong.

  33. Paul says:

    Hold everything. Forget about this discussion. I found a great Post article yesterday that is perfect fodder for the In Box.

    Check it out. You can calculated how you will vote and with what rate of turnout based on what you tend to drink:

    BTW- I find it interesting that many republicans that are likely to vote drink Chardonnay! It looks like those who drink martinis are mostly democrats. That is surprising also.

  34. The Original Larry says:

    Everyone seems to view Snowden as an heroic figure, the little man who blew the whistle on the big, bad guys, but even a cursory examination of his background, to say nothing of his history with the CIA, raises some interesting questions. Is he perhaps part of a clandestine operation, maybe an effort to curtail the growing power of the NSA? Who did/does he really work for? I’m beginning to think he’s not who people think he is.

  35. Mervel says:

    I think Brian what you are talking about is more along the lines of what Walker was speaking of, how we classify materials and do we over classify? I think that is a good discussion.

    But in this case consider; why wasn’t President Jimmy Carter arrested for revealing the existence of Stealth technology in the late 1970’s? This was a highly classified black program that had been in development since the end of WWII. The reason of course is that what is classified and what is not is determined by the Executive Branch starting with the president and flowing through the entire Defense and Intelligence establishment, they get to make the rules when it comes to our national defense, like it or not.

    The individual players, the foot soldiers so to speak, and we as citizens; do not get to make those rules, in fact if you do have access to those secrets you take a very serious oath to respect those decisions and secrets. Snowden took that oath as a US citizen and took it upon himself to make a private decision to intentionally break the law and his oath.

    To your question, in my opinion the political thinking of a President may not be classified information it does not reveal a state secret. What our enemies are interested in is our methods and our means of attacking them and how we are going to attack them. This is what Snowden revealed, it is no different than if he had revealed the existence of Stealth technology or the existence of CIA agents names or the existence of any other secret weapon or attack plans. To me that is the main difference between what Snowden and Gates did.

    If Gates revealed something that was indeed damaging to US security and was classified as such; than the FBI and the AG should be right now working to build a case to arrest him, and maybe they are?

  36. Mervel says:

    This is the hard part about Snowden however, at least for me. I think he should have to face the consequences of breaking national security, however I also think he may have been right I am not sure. Sometimes in our lives we have to make that decision, what he did has caused a national discussion on this issue that would not have occurred without him. In the end was the breaking of national security worth it and the answer may be yes.

  37. Paul says:

    “If Gates revealed something that was indeed damaging to US security and was classified as such; than the FBI and the AG should be right now working to build a case to arrest him, and maybe they are?”

    You can be assured they are not. Like I said before this book was vetted by the intelligence community before it was published. They reviewed every word.

    The argument here is if WE think it should have been classified information. It wasn’t considered classified by the government. Maybe it should have been like Brian is arguing but it wasn’t.

    That the president didn’t (doesn’t) support the war was no secret. That he wanted (wants) to get out as soon as possible was no secret. What Gates thought the president thought about the commander is another question. I can sort of buy the argument that this should not have been reveled prior to the end of the conflict. Does it rise to some treasonous level. I don’t really think so.

    To Gates credit he didn’t hide. He wrote the book and said this is how he felt (it may or may not be factual). He could have used some reporter like Bob Woodward (or our man Brian M.) to leak the information rather than own up. It sounds like Brain would have chosen not to report the information. If it is dangerous for the country than I applaud that decision.

  38. oa says:

    Brian–You keep saying we’re at war, and about Gates giving comfort to our enemies. Tell me again when Congress declared war, and on whom, who exactly we’re fighting now, especially in Pakistan with the drones, and tell me when we can expect someone to declare that the war is over. I really am not sure who the enemy is any more, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. You seem to have a lot of certainty about our foreign entanglements. I think defining some of your terms would help sort out this discussion.

  39. “I thought: The president doesn’t trust his commander, can’t stand Karzai, doesn’t believe in his own strategy and doesn’t consider the war to be his. For him, it’s all about getting out.”


    It’s a heck of a lot better than what LBJ and McNamara did. They didn’t believe in their own strategy nor trust their commanders but chose instead to get us in deeper.

    I’m not a fan of Obama’s but this raises him a little bit in my eyes.

  40. The fact that we can criticize our president gives aid and comfort to the enemy. Are we going to ban that like we did in 1918?

    Except there’s a big difference. Back then, wars were declared and peaces negotiated. Now, wars are undeclared and go on ad infinitum. Will we ban criticizing the president, for fear of giving aid and comfort to the enemy, ad infinitum too?

  41. Mervel says:

    Being at war or not is irrelevant to keeping classified state secrets. Spying for example is always secret and should be and has always gone on in our interests with or without wars and even with our without overt foreign threats.

  42. jill says:

    Gate’s book is akin to the insider who dines out on whispers and anecdotes. He reveals things that allow him to prove his connections, place, and access to power- a very different motive than Snowden, a young man desperately troubled by what he saw as egregious abuse of the constitutional rights of individuals. He felt strongly enough about that to commit a crime. A tangled web- but more honorable than another powerful male preening over his past. What Gates shared is gossip to bolster his self- importance; what Snowden was driven to reveal may be treason- but it is treason against an over-reaching government, on an unsuspecting democracy.

  43. Mervel says:

    I agree with jill very well put!

  44. Mervel says:

    Also Brian M is correct; that is what I expect the President to do! He is my civilian representative sent to control and direct the military, not the other way around, I want him to be suspect of what generals are telling him.

  45. Paul says:

    According to the preview of the NPR interview next week it sounds like Gates reveled this information now because he thought that it could have some kind of effect. Given that I change my view and side with Brian Mann. If he thinks that it could or should affect foreign policy than it is something that he should not have revealed at this point in time. Loose lips sink ships. Have a good weekend!

  46. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    OL it is frustrating and tiresome to try to have a rational discussion when all you get out of me trying to add some background is that I’m “Blaming Bush” (BB).

    If my car doesn’t start in the morning I try to determine if the problem is electrical, or fuel or mechanical. If the battery seems low I’ll try to jump it. If it doesn’t start the next day I take it to my mechanic to see if it is the battery or if it isn’t charging. If he replaces the battery and it doesn’t start I call him up to ask “what up?” If he says it is a brand new battery and replaces it without charge and it starts fine afterward I assume the first replacement battery was faulty. To this point I haven’t assessed any blame. I didn’t blame the battery, or the electrons or my mechanic. But if I look at the battery he put in and see that it isn’t the brand new battery his invoice indicated then I blame him for trying to rip me off.

    To take a little tangent from oa’s point, my discussion of Gates’ tenure in several administrations was partly to point out that he had high level dealings in US foreign policy, both overt and covert, but mostly covert. oa asks what war and who are we fighting? Gates has had a long career deeply centered in the nexus of that question. It is an important question because we have spent many trillions of dollars and millions of people have died — and the public has not been privy to a lot of the reasons and reasoning, but beyond that most people will not educate themselves on what has really happened and how to prevent it in the future. God damn it I’m trying to educate you just little bit. People die because idiots like Charley Wilson and some spook get together to train and fund terrorists. And it don’t stop, and it don’t stop and it don’t stop. And Gates was in the middle of most of it. Now he wants to make money off a kiss and tell autobiography?

    Will you just listen to me once in a while?

  47. Pete Klein says:

    Just for the record, I view Snowden as an inadvertent traitor and Gates is someone out to make a buck.
    But more importantly that my views on the motives of people I don’t know, why is it that our intelligence community seems incapable of finding, capturing and sending to jail for life those responsible for the hacking that took place at Target?
    This is a form of terrorism that needs to be stamped out with the same vigor that should be applied to eliminating all of the Islamic terrorist. Maybe they are one in the same?

  48. myown says:

    Interesting info on Gates:

    With his record of being involved in so many foreign policy disasters there is no way he should have been Sec of Defense. But he is a consummate Washington insider where connections are more important than competence and you don’t have to worry about being held accountable for anything as long as you are a team player. Every administration recycles these guys over and over again for critical foreign policy, military, financial, etc. positions. (Following this practice was one of Obama’s biggest mistakes and why he has accomplished so little of what he campaigned for)

  49. myown says:

    There are folks who think Snowden is traitor or criminal who should be prosecuted and sent to jail. But if the NSA programs he revealed are ultimately determined to be illegal or unconstitutional who should be held accountable for those violations? Isn’t it even more appropriate that the people who approved those programs to be prosecuted and sent to jail? Why do we treat the whistleblower of wrongdoing more harshly than the actual perpetrators of the wrongs?

  50. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Excellent link, myown. Everyone should read it. And remember when you hear discussions in the news about Fallujah falling, or people wanting to fund rebels in Syria, or dissenters on talks with Iran, or Lebanon falling back into factional fighting … remember that our policies tend to be the same rehashed ideas that have helped keep things mucked up.

    Maybe we should try different tactics. For instance, peace talks with Iran, peace talks between Pakistan and India, peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Real talks that go on for decades if necessary; why not have talks at least as long as the wars go on?

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