WASHINGTON -- In politics, the story line rarely changes: Do as I say, not as I do.
Thus several former U.S. intelligence and special operations personnel who have accused President Obama of leaking and “politicizing” national security information have themselves talked publicly about sensitive security matters.
They are members of a new nonprofit group called Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund. Known as OPSEC, military shorthand for operational security, the group says it has raised about $1 million for TV ads and a short film called “Dishonorable Disclosures,” which criticizes the Obama administration for alleged national security leaks.
The organizers say they don’t intend to release a list of their donors or their members. Neither is required by law.
“It’s time for President Obama and other administration officials to stop jeopardizing national security operations for political gain,” said Fred Rustmann, an OPSEC member, who worked at the CIA for 24 years before he retired in 1990.
Rustmann and two other key members of the group, all self-described Republicans, have a history of talking openly to the media about national security, a review of articles and transcripts shows.
Rustmann appeared on Fox News’ “Hannity and Colmes” in 2005 to discuss Valerie Plame Wilson, a covert CIA operations officer who was outed in July 2003 by members of the George W. Bush administration. A federal jury convicted I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who was chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, of four felony counts for his role in the crime.
Rustmann, who had supervised Plame during her early years at the CIA, argued on Fox that disclosing Plame’s name was not a significant breach of national security. He discussed details of her training, her career and her cover.
“It isn't a big deal,” he said about the illegal disclosure of the covert officer’s name. “It was a light, nonofficial cover.”
Scott Taylor, chairman of OPSEC, is a former Navy SEAL. An unsuccessful Republican candidate for Congress in Virginia in 2010, he sat down with NBC News last summer for a documentary titled “Secrets of Seal Team Six.” The film said the military had urged former SEALs not to talk.
And OPSEC member Chad Kolton, a former spokesman for the director of National Intelligence during the George W. Bush administration, helped make the office “more accessible to reporters, including regular off-the-record briefings by senior analysts on global hot spots,” according to a newswire report that announced his departure to form a communications firm.
In telephone interviews Wednesday, Rustmann, Taylor and Kolton drew a distinction between talking to reporters about national security matters and disclosing secrets, which each of them said they never did.
“People called me up and asked me questions and I answered the questions,” Rustmann said.
“I know what to say and what not to say,” Taylor said.
“There is a difference between talking broadly about some of these issues and disclosing information that is previously unknown about sensitive special operations missions,” Kolton said.
The three said OPSEC supporters were angry that the Obama administration released so many details of the SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011.
“If you look at the history of these leaks, they look like they are made to make the president look strong,” Taylor said.
Obama campaign spokesman Ben Labolt likened OPSEC to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group that launched a widely publicized, and then discredited, campaign that questioned the military record of Sen. John F. Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee.
“The Republicans are resorting to Swift Boat tactics because when it comes to foreign policy and national security, Mitt Romney has offered nothing but reckless rhetoric,” LaBolt said.
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