“We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency… Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.”
Over the past few weeks the Obama administration has been embroiled in a number of controversies. Three of which are the Benghazi talking points; the Department of Justice obtained through a subpoena two months of telephone records of Associated Press reporters; and the Internal Revenue Service targeted tea party groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax exempt status.
Let’s look at each of these issues separately. First, the Benghazi talking points. Conservatives such as former Vice President Dick Cheney, Senator’s Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and John McCain (R-AZ) are accusing the Obama administration of covering up the Sept. 11, 2012, Benghazi attack to help the president’s chances in the election battle with Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
After a release of over 100 pages of emails between the CIA and the Department of State, the record is clear that there was a disagreement between David H. Petraeus, former director of the C.I.A., and his assistant, Michael J. Morell, over how much detail to provide. The conclusion that one draws from this is it was not the administration concerned about reelection, it was officials in the government such as Petraeus and others at the Department of State who were concerned about how this attack would reflect upon them.
What gets lost in this conservative echo chamber is the critical analysis of why did the Obama administration agree to remove a leader of a sovereign country who was posing no immediate threat to American interests. Senator Obama railed against the Bush administration (and rightfully so) for the illegal invasion of Iraq but then as president engages in similar chicanery.
Also, how has this illegal and ill-advised blunder made America safer when as a result of destabilizing Libya there are now thousands of surface-to-air missiles (SAMS), rocket propelled grenades (RPG’s) and other dangerous weapons showing up in Mali and other countries in the region. As Secretary of Defense Gates said on Face the Nation, “Well, given the number of surface to air missiles that have disappeared from Qaddafi’s arsenals, I would not have approved sending an aircraft, a single aircraft– over Benghazi under those circumstances.”
Second, the DOJ vs. AP. The Justice Department sought and was granted a subpoena to obtain two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press (AP). According to CNN this is related to a DOJ investigation of how the AP obtained and then published details of a foiled bomb plot that targeted a U.S. bound aircraft leaked in May 2012.
For as unsettling as it may be to know that the DOJ is investigating journalists, the DOJ followed the law and did nothing illegal. There is a First Amendment protection of the press but there is no “shield law” protecting journalists and their sources at the federal level. Just ask Judith Miller who spent 85 days in jail for refusing to testify about her source in revealing the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame (and ask “holier than thou” VP Cheney how Judith Miller received the information).
According to The New York Times, President Obama now backs a proposal by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y) which says reporters do not have to disclose the names of confidential sources, or their means of communicating with them. The real question is will President Obama try to water down a revived Schumer plan the way he tried to in 2009. In 2009, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and then-Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA.) introduced a bill that sought to prevent federal officials from compelling journalists to reveal sources or information under threat of jail time. The Obama administration worked to water down the bill by seeking a far broader national security exemption and by instructing judges to be deferential to executive branch assertions about whether a leak caused or was likely to cause such harm. Is “watered-down” support really support?
Finally, the Justice Department is investigating the IRS for targeting tea party groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax exempt status. The inspector general’s report, released Tuesday, does not indicate that Washington initiated the targeting of conservative groups. But it does say a top supervisor in Washington did not adequately supervise agents in the field even after she learned the agents were acting improperly.
According to The Dallas Morning News, IRS agents were trying to determine whether the political activities of such groups disqualified them for tax-exempt status. These groups were claiming tax-exempt status as organizations promoting social welfare. Unlike other charitable groups, they can engage in political activity. But politics cannot be their primary mission.
When examined individually each of these “scandals” can be reasonably explained. None of them reach the impeachable standard of Section 4 of Article Two of the United States Constitution “High crimes and misdemeanors.” They tend to indicate a poor management style; too much delegation. President Obama appears to be managing his agency heads the way a college professor would allow his graduate students to coordinate their own group projects.
When viewed in the larger context of increased drone attacks, a president seeking to allow the US Army to indefinitely detain American citizens, and an AG Holder who says POTUS can assassinate American citizen’s any place in the world without judicial review it makes the “transparent” government that a majority of Americans voted for opaque at best.
Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/ Host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Leon,” and a Lecturer in the Department of Political Science at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
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