Attorney General Eric Holder has assigned two U.S. attorneys to conduct investigations into the disclosure of what are supposedly national security secrets to the media. At the same time, there is talk of a congressional inquiry into the leaks, which some Republicans suggest were arranged to make President Obama look like a bold executive as his re-election approaches.
If the Obama administration leaked classified information for political purposes, the responsible players should be identified and the White House should be called out.
But we hope that Congress does not stop there.
The leaks reveal the extent to which the Obama administration has carried forward with the Bush administration's "make things up as you go along" approach to the war on terror. There is even evidence that the administration is involved in reclassifying members of the families of legitimate targets as "enemy combatants" — when that designation, frankly, seems dubious.
The leaks have, as well, provided new insight into the way in which the president and his aides are actively engaged in strategizing with regard to drone warfare, which is supposed to target terrorists but frequently kills civilians.
The release of this information does not appear to pose a great threat to national security. It's unsettling, perhaps, but not threatening. We've basically learned that the president watches videos before making "who shall live and who shall die" decisions.
While leaking for purely political purposes — if this is what has occurred — is wrong, and leaking information that might endanger U.S. troops and civilians on the ground is even more wrong, there is something very right about providing the American people with information on what is being done in their name but without their informed consent.
Americans should know the basics about how an open-ended war on terrorism is being conducted. And they should know about the authorization and use of drones.
Members of Congress have every right to ask core questions about leaks.
But they should also be asking core questions about the ill-defined war in Afghanistan and about an approach to drone warfare that seems to have a seat-of-the-pants character to it.
When it comes to war-making by the executive branch, more congressional oversight is needed. And it should extend far beyond fretting about leaks.
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