UPDATED: Gates Shop Leaks When It Suits Em, Says Loren Thompson
Defense Secretary Robert Gates really hates people talking out of school. Remember his non-disclosure agreements he required senior military and civilian defense leaders to sign? Well, on his way to Oshkosh to visit the company making the M-ATV today, the former spymaster threatened to fire anyone who shares information on the current debate about the Afghanistan strategy and last week's shootings at Fort Hood, Texas.
"I am appalled by the amount of leaking that has been going on," Gates told reporters on the plane to Oshkosh, Wisc., according to coverage from our colleague Donna Miles of the American Forces Press Service. If Gates finds out who did the leaking, "it would probably be a career ender," he said.
Congressional reaction was fairly muted, which surprised me given the strong comments made when Gates required the non-disclosure agreements.
"People wouldn't be leaking so much if Obama would get on the stick and make a decision," one aide said in an email. When I went back and asked if this was a troubling pattern or business as usual, the aide. said, "It's absolutely a pattern. The Obama-Gates political machine doesn't want transparency--they want to massage every piece of information before it comes out."
A second aide actually said the Obama Pentagon is doing a pretty good job of sharing information with the Hill. "Informing Congress isn’t leaking. The information flow from DoD to Congress is so much better now than under the Bush Administration that I can only assume he means telling the public or press?" said the aide in an email.
"I understand why Gates is concerned about leaks, but his own program evaluation shop has been leaking internal program assessments and budget plans to the trade press the entire time Gates has been there," said Loren Thompson, defense consultant and defense analyst. "For example, it leaked information about the Joint Estimating Team findings on F-35 before the data had even been briefed to Gates, information that undoubtedly proved embarrassing to him given his recent strong endorsement of the program."
In that vein, Gates did a little leaking of his own on the flight, announcing a new task force to improve the response to IEDs in Afghanistan. "It will bring together the range of capabilities we already have, and make them more collaborated and more integrated," Gates' spokesman Geoff Morrell said, according to Donna's story. After all, one man's leak is another man's informing the people about important public business.