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Obama: Ready to Share with Russians – Not Congress
According to the Washington Times, “President Obama signaled Congress during the week of Jan 2, 2012, that he was prepared to share U.S. missile defense secrets with Russia.” This revelation was consistent with information previously published, indicating that Obama was “planning to provide Moscow with Standard Missile-3 (SM3) data.” Such data sharing could, according to security officials, allow the Russians to counter our defensive missiles. [i]
As this argument wages, Obama signed into law, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA), on December 31, 2011. The NDAA, in part, restricts the ability of the President to share classified ballistic missile defense information with Russia without reporting to Congress 60 days in advance, the specific information to be shared. While Obama signed the law, he indicated in his signing statement, that he would interpret its provisions in a manner that gives him maximum “flexibility” (remember that word and his open mic moment with Dimitri Medvedev). With regard to one section of the law, Obama said:
“…While my Administration intends to keep the Congress fully informed of the status of U.S. efforts to cooperate with the Russian Federation on ballistic missile defense, my Administration will also interpret and implement section 1244 in a manner that does not interfere with the President’s constitutional authority to conduct foreign affairs and avoids the undue disclosure of sensitive diplomatic communications. Other sections pose similar problems. Sections 1231, 1240, 1241, and 1242 could be read to require the disclosure of sensitive diplomatic communications and national security secrets.”[ii]
The President seems to be saying that his right to share national security secrets with a foreign power should not be subjected to restrictions that would cause him to disclose to our own Congress, sensitive diplomatic communications, or the same national security secrets. In other words, classified national security documents warrant less protection than diplomatic communications with a foreign government. Revealing our secrets to a foreign power – according to this line of thinking – is less threatening than releasing them to members of Congress.
[i] Bill Gertz (Jan. 4, 2012), Washington Times web-site, Inside the Ring, Pentagon Shifts East, retrieved January 5, 2012 from http://p.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/jan/4/inside-the-ring-215329133/?page=all#pagebreak
[ii] President Barack Obama (December 31, 2011), White House web-site, Statements & Releases, Statement by the President on H.R. 1540, retrieved January 5, 2012 from http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/12/31/statement-president-hr-1540