WH: ‘There’s a Double Standard’ in Outrage When Intelligence Leaks Occur
By Melanie Arter | March 8, 2017 | 6:32 PM EST
The White House complained Wednesday of a double standard in the way the media and Democrats respond to reports of intelligence leaks depending on who the target is.
“It’s interesting how there’s a double standard with when the leaks occur, how much outrage there is,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said, adding, “I think it’s interesting how different subjects are approached.”
Spicer was asked to confirm whether there was a criminal investigation into the alleged theft of cyber tools from the CIA by Wikileaks, which alleged that the intelligence agency can hack into smart TVs, cell phones, and other devices to spy on Americans.
Spicer said he could not confirm the “authenticity” of the report’s claims.
“For obvious reasons, it is our policy as a government not to confirm the authenticity of any kind of disclosure or hack. That would be highly inappropriate for us, but all of these occurred under the last administration. That is important,” he said.
“All of these alleged issues, and I think it’s interesting to have it asked this way about the damage that could have occurred or what tools could be used in light of what’s been going on recently. I mean we’ve had-- your own network’s correspondent James Rosen had his phones, multiple phones tapped. Was that appropriate back then? I think there’s a lot of concern out there about alleged leaks,” Spicer said.
“There’s two steps to this, and I think what you saw over the last week in terms of-- this should be a major concern to people in terms of the leaks that are coming out and the desire to get to the bottom of them whether or not - not specifically with respect to the disclosure that you’re referring to - but I think the idea that we are having these ongoing disclosures of national security and classified information should be something that everybody is outraged in this country,” he said.
Trump tweeted Sunday that former President Barack Obama had Trump Tower wiretapped during the election. Before that he complained about intelligence leaks regarding former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who spoke to the Russian ambassador prior to the inauguration.
"The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by 'intelligence' like candy. Very un-American!" Trump tweeted at the time.
Spicer emphasized Wednesday that anyone found leaking classified material will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
“And make no mistake about it, I think the president has talked before that anybody who leaks classified information will be held to the highest degree of law. We will go after people who leak classified information. We will prosecute them to the full extent of the law,” Spicer said.
Spicer said it seems that lately, public outrage depends on the target of the leaks.
“This is the kind of disclosure that undermines our country, our security, and our well-being, and you’ve seen over the last two years, depending on the leak, it depends on the outrage,” he said.
“It’s interesting how whenever-- whether the leak occurred under the last administration, you had member after member talking about disclosures that occurred during the last administration, whether it was members of Congress. Elijah Cummings expressed concern during the last administration in terms of the Americans that were-- when it dealt with Hillary Clinton, there was complete outrage about the leaks that occurred, members calling for investigations into the leaks,” Spicer said.
“It’s interesting how there’s a double standard with when the leaks occur, how much outrage there is, and so I do think it’s important. While I don’t want to get into confirming or denying this particular thing, I think it’s interesting how different subjects are approached. This one, everyone is immediately rushing to, and there should be a lot more coverage of this. This alleged leak should concern every single American in terms of the impact it has on our national security,” he added.
Spicer was later asked whether Trump still loves Wikileaks as he said during the presidential election when Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was targeted.
“When it came to the campaign and Hillary Clinton, the president said, ‘I love Wikileaks.’ Does he still feel that way today?” a reporter asked.
“There is a big difference between disclosing John Podesta’s gmail accounts about a back and forth and his undermining of Hillary Clinton and his thoughts on her on a personal nature and the leaking of classified information,” Spicer said.
“There is a massive, massive difference between those two things, and I think it is again, the interest and the outrage that occurred last year by a lot of Democrats when it came to leaks, it’s interesting that we’re hearing not as much outrage now when it comes to some of our issues of national security,” he said.
Oct 10, 2016 - Trump then began reading from sheets of paper some of the details of Clinton's hacked emails. ... “I love WikiLeaks,” he told listeners.