It’s hard to imagine Lincoln or Eisenhower claiming such credit for the heroic actions of others..
The first anniversary of the SEAL Team 6 operation that killed Osama bin Laden brings the news that President Obama plans during the coming campaign to exploit the bragging rights to the achievement. That plan invites scrutiny that is unlikely to benefit him.
Consider the events surrounding the operation. A recently disclosed memorandum from then-CIA Director Leon Panetta shows that the president’s celebrated derring-do in authorizing the operation included a responsibility-escape clause: “The timing, operational decision making and control are in Admiral McRaven’s hands. The approval is provided on the risk profile presented to the President. Any additional risks are to be brought back to the President for his consideration. The direction is to go in and get bin Laden and if he is not there, to get out.”
Which is to say, if the mission went wrong, the fault would be Adm. McRaven’s, not the president’s. Moreover, the president does not seem to have addressed at all the possibility of seizing material with intelligence value—which may explain his disclosure immediately following the event not only that bin Laden was killed, but also that a valuable trove of intelligence had been seized, including even the location of al Qaeda safe-houses. That disclosure infuriated the intelligence community because it squandered the opportunity to exploit the intelligence that was the subject of the boast.
The only reliable weapon that any administration has against the current threat to this country is intelligence. Every operation like the one against bin Laden (or the one that ended the career of Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S. citizen and al Qaeda propagandist killed in a drone attack last September) dips into the reservoir of available intelligence. Refilling that reservoir apparently is of no importance to an administration that, after an order signed by the president on his second day in office, has no classified interrogation program—and whose priorities are apparent from its swift decision to reopen investigations of CIA operators for alleged abuses in connection with the classified interrogation program that once did exist.
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