White House Stuck in Catch-Up Mode on NSA Revelations

Constantly finds its old lies outdated and superseded by the need for new lies


President Barack Obama has the surveillance leak response down pat: Wait a couple of days after a rough story, then tell reporters most of what they already know.

What the White House hasn't done is get ahead of the story.

The administration's pattern was in full effect Wednesday, when it got lapped by the National Security Agency news cycle. While three senior officials were explaining newly declassified documents that were largely reported by the Washington Post last week, reporters wanted to know details about a fresh Wall Street Journal NSA scoop from the morning.

Basic crisis management dictates that you push out as much information about the story as possible as soon as possible, but the White House's public relations effort has been complicated by its inability to predict the next wrinkle to the story. It doesn't know what revelations are coming next — or when. …

"At some level they become a piñata out there where they're having to answer questions and they have no control over the flow of information," said Clinton White House press shop veteran Chris Lehane.