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The Commander in Chief’s Secrets

November 3, 2009

“The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, a former military commander there, has expressed deep concern to Washington about sending more U.S. troops, the Washington Post and The New York Times reported on Thursday.

The papers, quoting senior unnamed U.S. officials, said Ambassador Karl Eikenberry had sent classified cables in the past week expressing strong reservations about President Hamid Karzai‘s erratic behavior and corruption in his government.

The reports of Eikenberry’s dispatches come as President Barack Obama is considering boosting U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, where Karzai was returned to power last week after a fraud-tainted election.”

What’s wrong with this story?  We are a nation at war and this was a classified cable!!!!!

Have we become so callous regarding leaks from Washington that a classified cable from an ambassador in a war zone to the Commander in Chief regarding a commitment of troops to a combat doesn’t spark any indignation?

Doesn’t anyone recall the efforts that the United States has historically gone to maintain classified communication in times of war, and to the even greater effort that we have gone to intercept and break the codes of our adversaries (think the Battle of Midway).

There’s only three junctures where a classified cable can become public; 1) where it originated, 2) while being transmitted or 3) where it is received.  If this was a “classified cable” and we are at war, something is wrong.  Either; 1) the Commander in Chief can’t trust his ambassador in a war zone, 2) we no longer have secure means to transmit classified information during a time of war, or 3) the Commander in Chief’s staff leaked the information for political purposes.

The Constitution assigns the president two roles: chief executive of the federal government and Commander in Chief of the armed forces. As Commander in Chief, the president has the authority to send troops into combat.  As chief executive, he enforces laws, treaties, and court rulings.

If Ambassador Eikenberry’s message wasn’t a classified cable, the Commander in Chief should inform us of that so we don’t have to conclude that our government can no longer keep secrets.  If it was a classified cable, it would be reassuring if the ambassador in the war zone was relieved of his duties or that resources where being put in place to insure that our government could safely transmit future classified messages in a time of war.

Otherwise, we’ll be left to conclude that classified information is being leaked from the White House for political purposes during a time of war.  So much for solemn  and thoughtful deliberations.

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