Get Ready For 'Leak Investigations' In The Trump White House

from the thanks-obama dept

As we discussed over and over again during the past eight years, the Obama White House — despite a first day pledge to be “the most transparent administration in history” — was actually quite famous for its extreme secrecy, combined with a seriously paranoid view of anyone leaking anything unflattering to the White House. As we detailed, the Obama White House declared any unflattering leaks as “aiding the enemy.” And, of course, the Obama administration went after more leakers/whistleblowers with Espionage Act claims than all other Presidents in history combined.

So, now, I guess we’ll see what the Trump administration does about leaks. So far, in just the first few weeks of the Trump administration, the number of leaks out of the White House has been fairly astounding. There are leaks on just about everything, with some being just downright silly (and a few being literally unbelievable). In a larger report in Politico on how Trump is adjusting to the job of being President, there’s a brief mention that he’s getting increasingly frustrated by the leaks and is seeking to have them stop:

After Trump grew infuriated by disclosures of his confrontational phone calls with foreign leaders, an investigation was launched into the source of the leaks, according to one White House aide. National Security Council staffers have been instructed to cooperate with inquiries, including requests to inspect their electronic communications, said two sources familiar with the situation. It?s not clear whether the investigation is a formal proceeding, how far along it is or who is conducting it.

The administration is considering limiting the universe of aides with access to the calls or their transcripts, said one administration official, adding that the leaks ? and Trump?s anger over them ? had created a climate where people are ?very careful who they talk to.?

And, now, in the wake of a variety of leaks that resulted in National Security Advisor Mike Flynn resigning, the President is trying to shift the story to being about leaks:

This is only marginally hilarious, coming from the same President who regularly praised Wikileaks during his campaign, and who almost certainly owes his presidencey, in part, to multiple damaging leaks on his opponent during the campaign. Sean Spicer doubled down on this angle in a press briefing today — after joking about how he needs to stop lecturing reporters on what stories to cover, he proceeded to lecture them about the idea that they should be focusing on the existence of White House leaks as the real story.

Of course, Washington DC is a town that thrives, and often seems to live off of, leaks from the government. I can imagine just how frustrating it must be to experience it first hand, but it sort of comes with the territory. It’s also a very, very important way in which the public is able to hold the government accountable. Leaks reveal things that keep the government’s worst impulses in check, which is why it’s a form of whistleblowing.

That said, this seems like yet another reason to be annoyed with the Obama administration’s vast, paranoid crackdown on leakers. It has set the blueprint for a Trump administration if it chooses to go down that same path. It remains to be seen if the Trump administration will pick up where Obama left off and go after leakers quite as aggressively as the last administration. But the quotes above (ironically… leaked from the White House) certainly indicate a plan to crack down on leakers, and to date, Trump has not shown that he’s interested in moderation when it comes to hitting back at those who displease him. One can only hope that he doesn’t decide to take the Obama blueprint and go even further in going after leakers and whistleblowers.

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Comments on “Get Ready For 'Leak Investigations' In The Trump White House”

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56 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington? Will these leaks be happening as I deal on N.Korea etc?

And now he’s concerned about leaks, huh? Fast learner, this one is.

Enjoy your leaks Dahnold. It couldn’t happen to a nicer orange loofa-faced shit-gibbon.

I only wish that your white house leaks just as much as a russian prostitute on a bed where the Obama’s slept.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

But what I want to know is why Techdirt never talks about all the secrecy in the Obama Administration.

They would, but it was so secretive that there are no definitive sources to tell us how secretive it was. If Obama had lived up to his transparency promises, there would have been regular official reporting of how many leaks had occurred, so that we could quantify how bad it was.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Since you invited this conversation, I see the clear sarcasm there, but that is a straw-man argument you just created.

I also noticed the rush for everyone to pat themselves on the back over it. For those wondering, the problem is not that TD does not talk bad about the Obama Admin… they definitely did and still do, much to their credit. They just have a noticeably different tone about it.

As an independent, I see a clear difference in reactions to bad Democratic polices vs bad Republican policies.

When TD takes aim at Democratic shortcomings, do so with reservation.
When TD takes aim at Republican shortcomings, they tend to cut loose.

Case in point… when Obama took office, was there an article about Our Humanity…
“https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20170130/00540836584/our-humanity.shtml”
–and–
Donald Trump Demonstrating How Much Of Our Political System Is Based On Tradition & Custom, Not Rules
“https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20161229/15093836371/donald-trump-demonstrating-how-much-our-political-system-is-based-tradition-custom-not-rules.shtml”

The problem is not that these came up, but that these only came up after Trump.

I have close friends and family still getting fucked over by the immigration system for about 30 fucking years! It is very frustrating to see people supporting illegal immigration efforts and wanting to politically reward them, while simultaneously not really giving a shit about those whom are working to things the legal way. You guys don’t give a fucking shit, you just have a political agenda.

And, the problem with how much the Government works according to tradition instead of the rule of law… that is a problem that should be making the rounds nearly every fucking week.

I am constantly amazed at the hypocrisy of both parties going on endlessly about how their shit does not stink, forgoing the rule of law and American sovereignty in favor of their political platforms being advanced. And not only that, acting like THEY are the ones extending the olive branch when they really only mean, roll over for some pork.

Washington is out of control, and you all are so focused on the Executive Branch, that you practically ignore the Legislative Branch. Trump could have been dealt with if Americans gave a shit about how congress and the house were being run, but they don’t. And a whole lot of people “act” like they care, when in fact… they don’t give a flying fuck, oh but they sure can run a big fat mouth!

Please carry on! It really seems to be working!

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:

that is a straw-man argument you just created.

It’s only a strawman if nobody’s actually saying it.

Here is a post from 5 days ago where a guy accuses Masnick of "Forget[ting] about 8 years of crap from Obama and rewrit[ing] history to make him great", in the comments of an article where Masnick criticized his lack of transparency in the second paragraph:

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20170208/08501336664/president-trumps-white-house-reaching-new-lows-accountability-transparency.shtml#c177

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Correcting myself: That was a response to another commenter, not a direct response to Masnick’s article.

So here are a couple of other examples:

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20170209/15510636679/trump-issues-executive-orders-to-make-safe-nation-safe-protect-cops-who-dont-need-protection.shtml#c664 (4 days ago):

attacking potus. new td norm.

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20170207/11510736655/biggest-advocates-imperial-executive-branch-are-suddenly-freaking-out-over-trump.shtml#c78 (6 days ago):

Seems you focus so much on BUSH, yet looks at OBAMA, The one that said he has a Pen and a Phone and executive action to get what he wants if Congress is not going to do what he wants!!! Sounds like a Dictator to me!

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Congress gets plenty of heat from Techdirt. Try reading some.

So far as Government being two faced, we all feel it in different ways. Sorry about your immigration issues, but this is not some news station helping viewers with their problems. So far as the R’s and the D’s are concerned, all political parties should be banned, at least so far as I am concerned. Some of the founding Fathers as well.

DannyB (profile) says:

Leaks dealing with North Korea?

> Will these leaks be happening as I deal on N.Korea etc?

Oh, now that’s hilarious.

Protip: when you deliberately (or stupidly?) decide to make your dealings with N. Korea a public spectacle for the entertainment and amusement of your private club members, who paid $200,000 membership for the unstated but understood opportunity for photo ops, you may discover that you have unexpected leaks.

BattleChicken says:

They just DID, Thad

Thad, From the article:

“As we discussed over and over again during the past eight years, the Obama White House — despite a first day pledge to be “the most transparent administration in history” — was actually quite famous for its extreme secrecy, combined with a seriously paranoid view of anyone leaking anything unflattering to the White House. As we detailed, the Obama White House declared any unflattering leaks as “aiding the enemy.” And, of course, the Obama administration went after more leakers/whistleblowers with Espionage Act claims than all other Presidents in history combined. “

It’s the first paragraph, dude.

ECA (profile) says:

I wont say..

That a Democracy SHOULD ..
Or a REPUBLIC should…

BUT shouldnt a FREE NATION have access to information..
Considering the way this nation WAS designed..we have rights to KNOW things, so we can JUDGE how our government is doing, and IF’ WE need to replace someone..
The WORD/TITLE Representative, is SUPPOSED to mean something…but NOT if they keep HIDING THINGS..

David (profile) says:

Re: Re: I wont say..

One would have to understand email to abuse or even use email. Da Trump understands Twitter, even in ALL CAPS mode.

He doesn’t understand much of anything else; His job, the Constitution, the law, the need for the State Department (American travellers in foreign lands with no ambassadors) and so many other things.

So him using email is a stretch. His knuckle dragging cadre however, if they aren’t on a private email server I would be very surprised.

DannyB (profile) says:

What if?

Imagine if a president were so unpopular to have the unpresidented (sic) bad luck that his top officials put out these leaks rather than saving them years and years for their memoirs. Now imagine that anyone investigating these leaks would not feel it necessary to do a through and complete job for the same reasons as the leakers leak.

Some bad world leaders of the past were hated by pretty much everyone within and outside of their administration.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: What if?

I’ve seen some posts trying to blame it all on Obama hires still in the administration.

That’s probably part of it. Trump hasn’t really done his due diligence in staffing the less glamorous, lower-level positions.

But it sure looks to me like there are warring factions among his own team — Pence, Priebus, Bannon, and Conway, and their people, all at odds with one another. At least, that’s the sense I get from the stories that have been coming out over the last few weeks; different groups of advisors all trying to make one another look bad.

(It bears adding that it’s a good idea to keep your skeptic hat on. Any time you see a story attributed to an anonymous source, take it with a grain of salt. Even — especially! — if it reinforces your preconceived notions.)

I’m surprised it took this long for Trump to start focusing on leaks as a major problem in his administration. I mean, yeah, he’s only been in office for a few weeks, but those few weeks have seen a pretty-much-nonstop barrage of embarrassing stories from anonymous administration sources.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: What if?

I think there is a slightly deeper story here.

At the end of the cold war the security services couldn’t bring themselves to give up Russia as an enemy. Consequently they continued to back political movements that were at root nationalist, anti-Russian.

Russia initially (during the Yeltsin years and the early Putin years) tried to get on side with the west – but it became clear to them after a while that they were getting nowhere. That is why we have seen a more aggressive stance in recent years.

Now Trump to his credit seems to want to reverse that but he has been far from smart in his approach.

The security service really do need to be cleaned from anti-Russian prejudice but this is not the way to go about it.

Anonymous Coward says:

The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington?

Maybe because you picked a fight with the intelligence community?

You still have that old phone for your twitter tantrums?

You don’t know what you’re doing, and everyone around you is scared for the nation because of it?

You forgot that communications are routinely monitored?

I mean, if I as an ordinary citizen can come up with this short list, you’d think such a successful businessman who knows more than the generals do could figure it out.

Anonymous Coward says:

Hey, I know a guy that should be investigated for leaking

You’ve probably seen him: orange hair, tiny hands — yeah, THAT guy. Well, anyway, a couple of days ago he was in a restaurant when some critically important national security news made its way to him. And instead of excusing himself from the table and finding a private location to discuss it, he stayed right where he was. Yep. Had a highly confidential conversation complete with classified documents right out in the open. Other diners took pictures of it — certainly a thrill for them. Anyway, this guy doesn’t understand what the words “national security” mean, so maybe you might wan to fire his ass.

ShadowNinja (profile) says:

Why should this leaking surprise anyone?

Trump and everyone else ‘shocked’ by these leaks is either being delusional or willingly forgetful if they thought there wouldn’t be a ton of leaks from his white house.

We literally knew throughout the entire 2 year presidential campaign what all the drama was that was happening in his campaign, the entire freaking time. We literally had constant stories about people who are moving up and down in the Trump campaign, and the constant conflict between multiple factions in his campaign that were out to get each other. That’s stuff that should NEVER be leaking out, especially so regularly, from a competently run campaign.

Why would anyone expect that to change just because they were in the white house? If Trump couldn’t crack down on the leaking then, why should we expect him to succeed in cutting down on it now?

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