Obama Administration Should Be More Transparent About Russia Allegations

Public hearings and documents, not anonymous sources describing unreleased reports, should drive any substantive discussion.


White House

Leaks about Russia's alleged role in election-related hacking this year didn't end up changing the results of the election, despite some Democratic electors demanding intelligence briefings before the Electoral College vote. President-Elect Trump, meanwhile, says he doesn't need daily intel briefings telling him the same thing every day because he's a "smart person." Trump's also dismissed the CIA leaks, pointing to the intelligence community's pre-Iraq war stance on weapons of mass destruction as evidence of their reliability.

The Obama administration fingered Russia as the culprit of election-related hacks of the DNC and John Podesta's emails that were leaked this summer, even though that's far from clear and little of the information has been released publicly. Skeptics of free speech like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz), meanwhile, are already looking to conflate hacking with leaks in the public interest, calling the leak of material embarrassing to politicians a "threat to democracy."

The allegations of hacking and interference, meanwhile, remain largely advanced by anonymous sources and political operators who find the narrative beneficial.

I write at The Hill:

Despite the severity of the allegations, the intelligence community has not gone on the record with any of them. That reality demonstrates a stunning lack of regard for transparency at the tail end of an administration that touted itself as the most transparent ever. The Obama administration has prosecuted more individuals for leaks under the Espionage Act than all its predecessors combined, while at the same time trying to keep tight control over all kinds of information about how government operates under the guise of national security.

Administration critics have long complained of politically motivated leaks that "paint the president as a strong leader," as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) complained in 2012. The anonymous leaks about Russia's alleged election-related hackings also appear politically motivated. The Obama administration should brief Congress and, given the strong public interest, that briefing should not be behind closed doors.

Read the whole column here