WASHINGTON: A group of former special operations and CIA officers are working with public affairs firm HDMK on its campaign against government leaks about Osama bin Laden's death.
The organization, the Special Operations Opsec Education Fund, is questioning whether President Barack Obama should have waited longer before announcing the death of Osama bin Laden last year. It has also criticized the government's release of details on how bin Laden died.
“The core message the organization is trying to deliver, in addition to making sure credit [for bin Laden's death] is given where it's due, is that the disclosure of classified sensitive information and tactile capabilities for policy and political advantages puts the people who have to execute them at risk,” said Chad Kolton, a partner at HDMK. Kolton is a former director of public affairs at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The campaign targets politicians of all political leanings, as well as Obama. It is pushing them to realize that full transparency is not helpful to national security efforts in these cases.
“You can't have an effective national security operation if all the details of its activities have to be disclosed to 330 million Americans,” Kolton said. “We have to have a system in place that allows effective oversight.”
The campaign components include media outreach and events, such as panel discussions with former US Navy SEALs and CIA officers. It also uses Facebook, Twitter, and blogs, as well as the organization's website and grassroots outreach. On the paid media side, it is running TV advertisements.
The campaign focuses on a documentary that claims the Obama Administration prematurely exposed the details of the bin Laden raid before military officers had the opportunity to go through intelligence gathered. It contends that waiting could have led to the takedown of others working with the terrorist leader.
The documentary also claims that the amount of information disclosed by the administration about bin Laden's demise resulted in enemies of the US gaining detailed knowledge on how the military operates.
It also asserts that Obama should stop taking credit for the al Qaeda leader's death.
“Mr. President, you did not kill Osama bin Laden. America did. The work that the American military has done killed Osama bin Laden. You did not,” Ben Smith, a former Navy SEAL, said in the film.
Ben LaBolt, national press secretary for the Obama for America 2012 campaign, denounced the effort as Republican “swift boat tactics” in a statement, referring to tactics used against Democratic Sen. John Kerry in the 2004 presidential campaign.
“The president said he'd end the war in Iraq in a responsible way and refocus on taking out al Qaeda leaders, and few would question that he's kept his word,” he said, in the statement.
Kolton insisted that the organization is bipartisan and said its outreach efforts will go beyond the November presidential election.
Members of the Special Operations Opsec Education Fund did not return a request for comment.