Well, this was something of a disaster, now wasn't it?
Former CIA Director Leon Panetta revealed the name of the Navy SEAL unit that carried out the Osama bin Laden raid and named the unit’s ground commander at a 2011 ceremony attended by “Zero Dark Thirty” filmmaker Mark Boal.
Panetta also discussed classified information designated as “top secret” and “secret” during his presentation at the awards ceremony, according to a draft Pentagon inspector general’s report published Wednesday by the Project on Government Oversight.
A source close to Panetta said Wednesday evening that he was unaware anyone without the proper security clearances was present at the event, which included both CIA and military personnel.
“He has no idea who all is in the audience. He was told everyone got the requisite clearances,” said the source, who asked not to be named.
Panetta’s prepared speech was classified “secret,” according to the source. That may have led the CIA director to believe he could speak freely about the operation.
The leaked version of the report does not address whether Panetta knew Boal was present at the ceremony, held under a tent at the CIA complex on June 24, 2011. “Approximately 1,300” people from the military and the intelligence community were on hand for the event, according to a CIA press release issued the following week.
The disclosure of the IG report could undermine the Obama administration’s claims that senior officials have not leaked classified information. Last spring, Republicans publicly attacked President Barack Obama and his top aides, alleging that the administration leaked national security secrets to burnish Obama’s standing for his reelection bid.
I respect Panetta, and I am sure that he did not mean to leak anything to anyone not authorized to have the information. Perhaps this was the product of bad staffwork in that Panetta was misinformed as to who would be in the audience. But it certainly does not look good. At minimum, Panetta's staff was careless, and Panetta needs to take responsibility for that carelessness. At maximum, this disclosure may well have been meant to burnish the administration's political standing. In either event, it is harder to prosecute Bradley Manning--who deserves prosecution--when the Obama administration shows that it cannot keep a secret.