A conservative group has released a video of former CIA and special-operations officers slamming President Obama for what they say are politically motivated intelligence leaks.
The 22-minute video was produced by the Special Operations Opsec Education Fund, which claims to be nonpartisan, although The New York Times reported on Wednesday that some involved in the video — including a former Navy SEAL — have ties to Republican and Tea Party groups.
The video begins with news clips outlining a series of leaks that have provoked criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike.
“We have become a political weapon — we are not,” former Navy SEAL Benjamin Smith says in the video. “Our job is to be silent professionals — we do not seek recognition; we do not seek popularity … to make things public is wrong … As a citizen it is my civic duty to tell the president to stop leaking information to the enemy; it will get Americans killed.”
The video makes a particular point of scolding Obama for politicizing the death of Osama bin Laden, saying it was wrong for Obama to go on television to take credit for it.
Bin Laden's killing has helped make foreign policy and national security a perceived strength of Obama's, but the new ad suggests some Republicans think Obama's image on the issue can be tarnished.
"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," Smith says in the video.
According to The New York Times, Smith has been spokesman for the Tea Party Express and has campaigned with Republicans.
The Obama campaign did not respond to a request for comment, but spokesman Ben LaBolt told The New York Times that “Republicans are resorting to Swift Boat tactics” because their presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, had nothing to offer on policy.
“His two major foreign policy speeches never even mentioned al Qaeda once, and he hasn’t outlined a plan for America’s relations with a single region of the world,” LaBolt said.
Lawmakers have been outraged about a series of intelligence leaks to the press in recent months, culminating with a New York Times story published earlier this year that detailed a covert U.S. cyberattack against Iran, in which anonymous U.S. officials were cited as sources.
Republicans in Congress have called for a special counsel to investigate the matter, accusing Attorney General Eric Holder of being unable to run an independent investigation.
President Obama has rebuked critics who have suggested the White House purposely leaked national-security information to help his reelection campaign, and has said the White House has “mechanisms in place” to “root out” people who leak national-security information.
“The notion that my White House would purposely release classified national-security information is offensive,” Obama said. “It’s wrong, and people, I think, need to have a better sense of how I approach this office and how the people around me here approach this office.”
2012 seems to be a rare election year where Democrats have the upper hand on national-security issues, but Romney has looked to cut into that advantage by echoing some lawmaker calls for a special counsel.
The FBI is currently investigating the leaks.