Is Administration Admitting It Is Lying about Drones?

I’ll have far, far more on the leak investigations tomorrow or Monday. But for the moment I want to lay out certain implications suggested by this Jack Goldsmith post.

Goldsmith asks what the scope of the leak investigation is and cites reports that the investigation is only investigating the UndieBomb 2.0 and StuxNet leaks.

However, the Wall Street Journal reports that the two relevant FBI leak investigations concern (1) “leaks about the cyberattack program” and (2) “leaks about a double agent who infiltrated al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate.”  If the WSJ is right, it would appear that the investigations do not concern leaks about drone attacks and related matters that, like leaks about the Iranian cyber-operation and the AQAP infiltration, have been the subject of recent congressional complaint.

And he cites DOJ saying they can’t tell us the scope of the investigation because it would confirm whether or not reports were correct.

According to the New York Times, DOJ was silent on the subject matter of the investigations because revealing their subject matter “would implicitly confirm that certain reports contained accurate classified information.”

Put these two details together. If DOJ will only investigate leaks of accurate classified information, and if DOJ is really investigating the UndieBomb 2.0 leaks and StuxNet leaks but not the drone stories, one possible explanation (though not the only one) is that the UndieBomb 2.0 and StuxNet stories were accurate, but not the drone stories.

I have suggested the NYT and Klaidman stories came out when they did and in the form they did to distract from earlier reporting on signature strikes run from the NSC. Is the Administration admitting–with the scope of their leak investigations–that those leaks were not the truth?

26 replies
  1. MadDog says:

    Given a number of the posts you’ve done EW showing that the Klaidman book excerpts and the NYT reporting on the Kill List and US drone strike processes are at the very least out of date, and possibly wrong, that certainly could be a reason for no investigation.

    I’m still sticking with my earlier guess that the 2 investigations are the UndieBomb 2.0 and Stuxnet stories because they are:

    1) Mostly, if not entirely, correct.
    2) Reveal “sources and methods” from intelligence agencies.

    In contrast, the stories on the Kill List and US drone strike processes seem to fall more into the category of describing policy, and therefore while still likely classified, there is no particular intelligence agency whose “ox had been gored”.

    I should also say that from all of the various MSM reporting I’ve read on the leak investigation announcement last night, I’m a little bit surprised how few connected the dots and identified which leak stories were going to be investigated.

    Yeah, the DOJ wouldn’t confirm anyways, but still you’d think more than a couple would figure out the obvious. Even the NYT’s Charlie Savage who I hold in mostly high regard didn’t or wouldn’t make the identification.

    It may simply be a matter of “good journalism” where speculation isn’t allowed if there aren’t two sources to confirm, so perhaps I’m being overly critical. I’m guessing it will all come out in the next day or two, so I’m probably beating a dead horse with my criticism.

  2. MadDog says:

    @bmaz: I was presuming that both of you would be suffering from hangovers this morning, and at least one of you still wearing that lampshade. *g*

  3. MadDog says:

    @MadDog: It seems that ABC News has decided that it can connect the dots:

    Attorney General Eric Holder Appoints Federal Prosecutors for Leak Investigations

    “…Holder appointed Ron Machen, the U.S. attorney for the District of Colombia, and Rod Rosenstein to lead the criminal investigations into recent leaks concerning a disrupted bomb plot by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and a New York Times story about President Obama ordering cyber-attacks against Iran with the Stuxnet computer worm…


    …Last month, FBI Director Robert Mueller announced the FBI was investigating leaks about the disrupted plot by al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate to smuggle a bomb designed to be concealed in underwear onto a U.S. bound jet…


    …The other leak investigation involves recent disclosures in a June 1, 2012, New York Times article by journalist David Sanger about the Stuxnet computer virus being used to target Iran’s nuclear facility. While Stuxnet has widely been discussed in the press and among computer researchers, the article contained the code name of the operation – “Olympic Games” – and included details about how the United States worked with Israel to design the computer worm…”

  4. MadDog says:

    For those of us who don’t have a subscription to the WSJ and can’t get around their paywall to read the WSJ article Jack Goldsmith referred to, this link will get you there:

    Holder Puts Top Prosecutors on Leak Probe

    The secret you ask? The WSJ allows certain of their news articles to be “aggregated” by Google News, so using the Google News link gets you past the normal dead-end WSJ paywall.

  5. rg says:

    Your suspicion that the investigations are about true stories and not about fictions (which would be embarrassing findings to come out of said investigations) may turn out to be correct. However, another take is that the leaks are being investigated because of congressional demands, rather than because the stories being true. Better to pretend to want to cooperate with congress on these matters, than to have other committees demanding investigations into drone and other stories (which may involve less than rigorous oversight compliance).

  6. Z says:

    Well, ask yourself this: How could they possibly claim to investigate the drone program leaks and then produce no culprits when so many people were involved in the NY Times story? I suspect that has more to do with not investigating those leaks than the accuracy of them. The leaks about stuxnet and the undie bomber probably didn’t appear to involve as many sources so they can credibly claim to investigate them but come up empty. Plus, if they admit that there were leaks about the drone program then that means they’d have to stop officially denying that it exists.

    Do you really think that they are all of a sudden willing to go after leakers that spread pro-Obama propaganda to the press? These leaks have been going on for a long while. No, they feel like they have to act like they are addressing the leaks now becoz Congress is finally getting involved. I’d bet that they have no intention of opening up that can of worms: going after the leaks that they like … hell, you could probably arrest half the cabinet for that.


  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Mr. Holder is running one of the worst and worst-paid criminal defense law firms in America. Inconsistency and shoddy work are nothing if they defer or avoid liability for his client. Mr. Holder probably can’t wait until he gets a raise on the outside, and a better class of client, and where he won’t need to worry whether he or his clients remembers the rule against perpetuities.

  8. Z says:

    Obama’s do”j” is beginning to set the groundwork for low expectations for prosecuting the leakers. The NY Times is already out with an article about how hard it will be to prosecute the leakers … funny, I don’t recall reading this when they were going after the whistleblowers, but perhaps I missed it. Note that Holder is claiming that there is no need for a special counsel … they want to maintain total control over this investigation.


  9. orionATL says:

    “Is the Administration admitting–with the scope of their leak investigations…”

    i thought this was all obama admin kabuki responding to a congressional complaint – not intended to go anywhere,

    like the doj torture “investigation” and the inside-job investigation of doj’s OPP (office of purity and propriety).

  10. spanishinquisition says:

    Actually Obama himself hints about there being lies in what we’ve been spoonfed:
    “But Mr. Obama called such accusations wrong.
    ‘The notion that my White House would purposefully release classified national security information is offensive,’ he said, adding: ‘But as I think has been indicated from these articles, whether or not the information they’ve received is true, the writers of these articles have all stated unequivocally that they didn’t come from this White House, and that’s not how we operate.'”

    This could seriously damage Obama in the larger publics’ eyes as I think this is going to have legs and Obama doesn’t know how to handle it. I expect it to drag on first with these prosecutors being appointed and then it will drag further on when the Republicans (and maybe even some Democrats) call loudly for Obama to appoint a Special Prosecutor. Republicans and journalists will ask why Obama as Senator called for a Special Prosecutor over Abramoff, but why now all these leaks don’t rise to that level, which there is no right answer to that – either you’re covering up or you’re soft on national security. If Congressional Democrats don’t see the writing on the wall they too will be called out on this and for their own self-preservation they’ll call for Special Prosecutor or get blasted in the elections this year for being soft on national security.

    Obama really stepped in it by doing things like inviting Hollywood to make a movie on the Bin Laden raid based on classified information while a the same time fighting FOIA requests. Trying to downplay and cover it up by appointing chain-of-command prosecutors in the case only drags it in rather than buries it. With this Obama has placed a huge election year target on every DC Democrats’ back including his own and at least so far the other Democrats are aware of this and are redirecting the fire onto Obama.

    Obama being a braggart could cost him the election in what’s most likely going to be a close race – an unforced error…which the vain backstabbing authoritarian egomaniac would certainly have it coming. If it comes out that Obama lied in his self-glorifying propaganda that would be a bonus, which also could come out of this.

  11. P J Evans says:

    I don’t know if it’s Obama or some of the high-level appointees, many of whom have been in other government positions and know how to push stories out without being fingered. (And he should have been a lot more careful about keeping people around from the previous administration.)

  12. spanishinquisition says:

    @P J Evans: Whether it is Obama personally or someone connected to him, it really doesn’t matter – I would actually be quite surprised if it was Obama who was directly doing the leaking rather than his minions. Given the self-imposed limitations of the leak investigation, I think at least some of the leaking comes from Axelrod, who is conspicuously not covered by the leak investigations’ authority.

  13. Gitcheegumee says:


    ‘The notion that MY White House would purposefully release classified national security information is offensive,’ he said, adding: ‘But as I think has been indicated from these articles, whether or not the information they’ve received is true, the writers of these articles have all stated unequivocally that they didn’t come from THIS White House, and that’s not how we operate.’

    Perhaps it’s just my way of processing the written word, but what OTHER White House is there? The context of “my” and “this “in conjunction with White House is unusual,imho.

    Is he inferring information was provided by a member(s)of a previous White House administration?

  14. earlofhuntingdon says:

    @Gitcheegumee: As you say, this White House is as devoted as was Nixon’s to issuing non-denial denials. Neither Woodward nor Bernstein any longer seem willing, however, to point that.

  15. Gitcheegumee says:

    Earl, it is kismet that you should bring up Woodward and Bernstein in reply to my comment.

    I was JUST reading about them, and Nixon, prior to posting . To wit:

    Nixon ‘far worse’ than thought say Watergate reporters

    By Agence France-Presse
    Sunday, June 10, 2012 2:29 EDT

    Almost four decades after the infamous Watergate break-in, the reporters who broke the story have concluded that then-president Richard Nixon was “far worse” than they thought.

    Nixon resigned in August 1974 for his administration’s role in a June 17, 1972, burglary of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex in the US capital and the subsequent cover-up. He became the only American president ever to resign the office.

    Many inaccurate ideas and myths related to Nixon’s role in the burglary and its cover-up have found long life over the years, reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward wrote in an op-ed piece for The Washington Post Saturday.

    “Another … has since persisted, often unchallenged: the notion that the cover-up was worse than the crime. This idea minimizes the scale and reach of Nixon’s criminal actions,” the reporters stressed.

    Read more:

  16. joanneleon says:

    Seems like obfuscation to me.

    McCain starts yelling about how the WH is leaking classified info for political purposes. Congressional committees say they are going to investigate. Even Feinstein was publicly grumbling about it all. Then suddenly there are going to be two US Attys investigating and everybody has to clam up about the whole thing because of the ongoing investigation.

    And even though the news articles about the investigation inferred that the drone strike “leakers” would be investigated, now it looks like it’s only the Stuxnet and Undie Bomber stories being investigated. Most people will never notice that detail, they’ll just think ‘well if Obama is saying his WH did not leak those drone details and he is serious enough about it that the DoJ is investigating then he must be telling the truth’. Propaganda on top of propaganda. Layers of propaganda and the investigations serving as a way to have an excuse not to talk about the whole thing. My two cents.

    Also, the statement from Obama saying “The notion that my White House would purposefully release classified national security information is offensive”. I mean, we know that the implication there is a flat out lie, right? Note that he doesn’t not directly deny it though. He just says the notion of it happening is offensive.

  17. P J Evans says:

    He’s offended by any of his people telling the truth to the rest of us, perhaps.
    Telling lies requires telling more lies just to keep people from finding out they’ve been lied to, and about what – and you have to remember what lies you told to each group of people. Telling half-truths makes it harder to find out what’s a lie – but it probably will come out eventually.

  18. Gitcheegumee says:

    During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.

    George Orwell

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