With news of CIA involvement, consideration for arming the rebels, and the sudden departure of top regime officials, the U.S. may be clearing the way for the colonel's exit
Perhaps two of the organizations least known for leaking, the CIA and the Obama White House, the latter of which has made a special habit of prosecuting leakers, appear to have both leaked the same story at the same time to the New York Times and to Reuters, the latter of which cites four separate sources. Together, they report that President Obama signed a secret finding authorizing the clandestine operations in support of Libya's rebels, including Central Intelligence Agency agents on the ground but not including arms for the rebels. It's possible that these officials all decided to risk joining past leakers in prison, like Bradley Manning. It's possible they all made the decision simultaneously, apparently on the same day, though the finding is now two to three weeks old. And it's possible they all chose to reveal about the same level of detail. Such a leak would be nearly unprecedented in scale and coordination -- nearly all such leaks are made by lone individuals -- and, judging by the Obama Department of Justice's past response to leaks, would bring about a large and almost assuredly successful investigation.
All of these things are possible. But it's also possible that the leak was planned, as so many U.S. government leaks are. There are several reasons that administrations willingly leak secrets: a desire to release information without publicly owning it or associating it with the president, legal restrictions that make it impossible for the White House to publicly acknowledge a program, or simply wanting to give the appearance that something should be a secret without actually keeping it that way. All of these factors could be in play in a possible decision to let slip Obama's secret finding. Such a leak makes appear Obama more bullish on Libya without requiring him to explain the plan for this new secret authority. It wards off domestic pressure without actually engaging those pressuring him. It also prepares the American people for the possibility of clandestine actions without actually carrying them out or even promising to consider carrying them out. After all, though the finding's approval may be broad, very little appears to have actually been done with it. Arming the rebels, the first logical step in a serious clandestine commitment, doesn't have the necessary congressional approval.