Peter Bergen’s Bumper Sticker

Yesterday, just two days after the unofficial start of the General Election, Joe Biden officially rolled out the slogan he had already warned would be his refrain for the entire campaign season:

If you’re looking for a bumper sticker to sum up how President Obama has handled what we inherited, it’s pretty simple: Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.

Also yesterday, Time Magazine rolled out a Peter Bergen article, The Last Days of Osama Bin Laden (which is still behind the paywall), accompanied not just by a bunch of other piggy-backed articles, but the letter above, Leon Panetta’s record of National Security Advisor Tom Donilon’s call telling him the operation against OBL was a go.

I guess we’re supposed to assume the timing of the two events is entirely coincidental.

The other event that transpired yesterday–Judge James Boasberg’s order ruling the CIA had properly withheld 52 photos taken during the raid on OBL’s compound under FOIA exemption 1 (properly classified information)–probably was just a coincidence.

But it does remind us that the photos–that is, records of the same covert operation as Leon Panetta’s note recorded–were immediately stamped “Top Secret,” considered derivatively classified, and subsequently formally classified and withheld from FOIA.

And yet, here Panetta’s note is, somehow having evaded the classification stamps. That, in spite of the fact that it records the normally religiously guarded Presidential communications, not to mention details of how CIA and JSOC work together on covert ops, the time it was officially okayed, that McRaven was informed first even though CIA was ostensibly in charge of the op. All of it stuff that, had the op blown up in Obama’s face, would be as carefully guarded as those pictures of OBL’s funeral.

In my mind, this whole festival of information asymmetry targeted at voters is capped off by the byline involved: Peter Bergen.

When I read about the imprisonment of journalists like Abdulelah Haider Shaye, or the wiretapping of Lawrence Wright and Christiane Amanpour, I think back to Bergen, who in the days after 9/11 was an important, reliable source who knew more about al Qaeda than many of the people taxpayers were paying to keep us safe. I’ve always thought, as our government targets journalists covering Islamic extremists, we’re handcuffing the next Peter Bergen, that journalist who is right now collecting the information our intelligence community is neglecting.That Peter Bergen is likely to be imprisoned, like Shaye, for talking directly to a terrorist.

And what has Bergen become, along the way? The outlet for officially leaked information–one more tool in the President’s toolbox of information asymmetry.

I don’t blame the Obama Administration for running on Joe Biden’s pithy slogan. But I do blame it for corrupting information in this way, both the system of classification that should be free from politics, and the space it accorded journalists to do their job when the government wasn’t.

Update: See this for details of how Brian Williams will film Obama and friends re-enacting last year’s Sit Room drama as they killed OBL.

Update: One of the things Judicial Watch complained about in their OBL suit is that the photos were probably classified only after the government received their FOIA on May 2 (to DOD) and May 4 (to CIA). CIA Information Review Officer Elizabeth Anne Culver explained that the CIA always considered the photos classified.

Contrary to Plaintiff’s suggestion, after their creation these extraordinarily sensitive images were always considered to be classified by the CIA and were consistently maintained in a manner appropriate for their classification level.

So wouldn’t Panetta’s note be considered derivatively classified, just like the photos? If so, why doesn’t have declassification markings now?

Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Reddit0Share on Facebook0Google+0Email to someone

20 Responses to Peter Bergen’s Bumper Sticker

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15
  • 16
  • 17
  • 18
  • 19
  • 20
Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz Will NOBODY rid me of these pesky Bruins?? Jeez. This is what I get for needing help from, and rooting for, ONE TIME, the USC Trojans. #Ugly
7mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @gracels @21law @jacklgoldsmith As much as I hate it, yeah, they are their own little fiefdoms. Again, I go off what I see where I practice.
9mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @21law @gracels @jacklgoldsmith If properly charged and within boundaries of state, yes amenable to process for Rule 8 state speedy trial
17mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @gracels @21law @jacklgoldsmith well, want the conviction for that purpose+willing to lock em up here even if no deport. thats my concern.
37mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @21law @gracels @jacklgoldsmith In fact, willfully itinerant and belligerent to Fed policy when they can be. Think lot of GOP places may be.
39mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @21law @gracels @jacklgoldsmith Ah, thanks. We shall see. But my experience here is county prosecutors are undeterred by Fed policies.
40mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz RT @dcbigjohn: Somewhere in DC, a bottle of Jameson hears the lonely whistle of a train and trembles, realizing the end is nigh, for I am h…
56mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @gracels @21law Right. And that was true amnesty, which this is certainly far from.
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @Ali_Gharib Awesome. Congratulations to @sanambna
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @gracels @21law Oh I know. But my bet is it is a risk many won't take with no promise longer+more permanently into the future on the offer.
1hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @JasonLeopold Frustrating as it may be for us, that is the mark of a smart criminal atty somewhere.
1hreplyretweetfavorite
April 2012
S M T W T F S
« Mar   May »
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
2930