Today a 22-minute film will be released attacking President Obama over, of all things, Osama Bin Laden's killing. Like the SwiftBoat efforts of 2004 on John Kerry, the goal is to attack the President's strengths and turn them into weaknesses. Sean Hannity is perfectly happy to assist them in that effort, because that's what Fox News does. Just an amplifier and free ad base for the Romney campaign, you know.
Who is OpSec?
The group claims to be a non-partisan educational group, but it's not. It's run by a failed Republican congressional candidate by the name of Scott Taylor. Reuters reports that he ran in 2010 in Virginia's Second Congressional District, and also for Virginia Beach mayor in 2008.
Not only is OpSec run by a Republican, it shares office space with a Republican group called the Trailblazer Group. The partners are Christian Ferry, who was the Deputy Campaign Manager for McCain-Palin 2008 and a lobbyist for telecommunications and railroad companies, and Ryan Price, McCain-Palin 2008 Deputy Political Director. Price was also responsible for coordinating surrogates and coalitions in that campaign. What a surprise.
It's not mere coincidence that the address of OpSec and these Republican operatives are identical. There's yet another entity listed at that address, a firm by the name of TelOpinion Research. When you visit their website, you're welcomed to "perceptual truth." I'll let you figure out what that might mean. TelOpinion boasts "another successful year in helping elect Republicans throughout the United States. Partner Bill Lee served on presidential campaigns for Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp, George H.W. Bush, Phil Gramm, and Bob Dole. Leo Lee brings his executive experience from Siemens, Home Depot, Babies R Us (a Bain Capital production) and Armoloy International. Tel Opinion boasts of a client list that includes Alliance for America's Future (the Norm Coleman 501c4), the Republican Governor's Association, the RNC, and the NRCC.
Their spokesman, Chad Kolton is a former spokesman for the office of the Director of National Intelligence during the George W. Bush administration, according to Reuters. But wait! There's more. Before Kolton worked for the Bush administration, he was a spokesman for FEMA and other agencies. And before that, he worked for the RNC as a deputy communications director after he began his career as a press secretary for John Boehner.
The person who appears in the film is a man by the name of Fred Rustmann. ThinkProgress notes that Rustmann was once a supervisor for Valerie Plame when she worked for the CIA. You remember Valerie Plame, right? ThinkProgress wants to know whether Rustmann, who spends his time complaining about security leaks in the White House in this film could answer his own question:
A voiceover wonders, “What is the cost of trading national secrets for political capital?”
This is a question worth asking Fred Rustmann, a former CIA undercover case officer and OPSEC spokesman who appears in the video. Rustmann, who was once a supervisor for covert operative Valerie Plame, was dispatched by the Bush administration to defend the leak that jeopardized her undercover identity. Rustmann claimed the leak had no effect on covert operations:
RUSTMANN: There are no major repercussions to the cover mechanism, no. To her — the question again gets down to whether somebody did this with malice or forethought. Then it’s a crime, and that person goes to jail.
COLMES: But isn’t the question whether any damage was done because of the revelation? Whether lives were harmed, whether anyone was harmed, or security was harmed?
RUSTMANN: Yes, I don’t think so. I think, if she were out there in that capacity, in that non-official capacity, and if she was handling agents — she was handling agents in another alias — we have different layers of cover that work.
Evidently leaks are only bad when a Democrat is in the White House.
There is nothing remotely educational or non-partisan about this group. If the facts above aren't convincing, consider their go-to for free publicity -- Sean Hannity.
Here is the answer to the question "Who is OpSec?" A group of partisan Republicans who are looking for the new SwiftBoat campaign which they hope will work a second time.
But it won't.
Editing the truth for educational purposes?
The film has some interesting selective edits, including the President's address on the death of Bin Laden. Because the lines they edited would contradict the narrative they're trying to construct, they just excised them. Here's how they present President Obama's address:
Over the last 10 years, thanks to the tireless and heroic work of our military and our counterterrorism professionals, we’ve made great strides in that effort. We’ve disrupted terrorist attacks and strengthened our homeland defense. In Afghanistan, we removed the Taliban government, which had given bin Laden and al Qaeda safe haven and support. And around the globe, we worked with our friends and allies to capture or kill scores of al Qaeda terrorists, including several who were a part of the 9/11 plot.”
Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.
Edited like this, it appears that all credit for Bin Laden's death was claimed by the President, which is exactly what Hannity alleges in his little promo at the top of this post. "I-I-I-I," Hannity proclaims. Funny how they left out this paragraph, which is certainly easy to find since it's in the very same transcript where they got the first two paragraphs:
Tonight, we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who’ve worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome. The American people do not see their work, nor know their names. But tonight, they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice. We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country. And they are part of a generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since that September day.
That doesn't fit very well with the President grabbing all the credit, now does it? Hannity also used this film debut to once again claim that torture was the true hero. I'm not even going to go there again. I've already exhausted my outrage on that piece of nonsense.
It won't work this time
Every time Republicans try this with regard to Bin Laden, they remind everyone that this President gave the order that dispatched the teams that got Bin Laden. He was not gotten by drone strike. President Obama risked his entire presidency on a successful mission, and the Navy SEAL team delivered that success. No one took that away from them. No one. We all know who executed that mission.
But only one person gave the order to execute it. For all of the lipservice paid to "courage" by Village reporters, true courage was in making that call and letting that team do the job they had been trained to do. No amount of Republican spin is going to change the fact that Osama bin Laden is dead, Al Qaeda is dismantled for the most part, and that happened while Barack Obama was President.
Every time they bring it up, they remind everyone of those facts, which they cannot spin away no matter how hard they try.
There is nothing non-partisan, educational, or especially patriotic about these people. It's a cynical play to try and turn a strength to weakness, but it will not work this time. In the words of an Obama campaign official, "No one in this group is in a position to speak with any authority on these issues and on what impact these leaks might have, and it’s clear they’ve resorted to making things up for purely political reasons."
While we wait for them to waste a lot of money bolstering the President's credentials in the national security arena, perhaps Mitt Romney should release his tax returns. Those are the real elephant in the room, not made-up poutrage by Republican wannabes.
Update: A reader points out that Admiral McRaven had high praise for the administration and the operation as recently as July. Admiral McRaven is one who would know, given his position at the time.