What was Senator Brown thinking?
For a Senator who serves on both the Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, this is a rather disturbing development.
Yesterday, a few hours prior to President Obama's announcement that he would not release photos of Osama Bin Laden's bullet-riddled corpse, Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown told Fox Boston News, "Listen, I've seen the picture. He's definitely dead."
Problem is the picture Senator Brown saw was a fake.
For a Senator who serves on both the Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, this is a rather disturbing development. We wonder how Senator Brown filters the information that he receives and why he was talking with the press about something President Obama had not yet cleared for release.
From almost the moment Bin Laden died on May 2nd, "photographs" of the "corpse" started cropping up on the Internet. Indeed several major news organizations published these fake photos only to take them down later and admit they had been duped. We're not surprised that our colleagues accepted these pictures and put them in front of the public right away. With today's 24/7, dog-eat-dog news cycle each news organization wanted to be "first" and they erred in their haste.
It is a different story when a member of the government fails to filter information before speaking, with great authority, to the news media about a topic. Senator Brown is not the only person on Capitol Hill to be duped; however, he is our Senator so we single him out for a lashing.
Some have said that the Senator thought he had been shown an official CIA picture of Osama's body. We wonder how he "knew" this was an official photo - because another Senator or Congressman said so? With apologies to Joseph Welch, did a "pixie" ("a close relative to a fairy") whisper in his ear? Did he even try to verify the photo with CIA before he spoke to the press?
Is this how members of the Armed Services Committee handle privileged information? Granted Senator Brown is still fairly new to Washington, but doesn't Congress or the intelligence services brief members of sensitive committees on how to handle such matters with the news media?
Brown isn't the only one duped
When he regains his senses perhaps Senator Brown will be more careful in his pronouncements about national security matters.
Senator Brown is not alone in the shame of this moment. There is plenty of shame to go around on "Bin Laden Photo-Gate" as one politician after another lined up to make a fool of himself or herself. While these folks all issued retractions as soon as they learned the pictures were faked, the damage to their credibility endures. These elected officials' imprudent statements cause us to question their fitness to receive information sensitive to our national security.
We hope that Homeland Security provides these politicians with some remedial instruction on how to handle sensitive information. For those who don't learn the second time around, it may be time to review certain Senators' and Members of Congress' security clearances.
Earlier this week, in a thinly veiled move to help his reelection, Sen. Brown asked that the US Army pay to send him to Afghanistan for his two-week yearly National Guard obligation. Last year he served the two weeks here in Massachusetts.
Not only would this be a waste of taxpayer money since his duties are in the Judge Advocate General Corps., it would take four days of the two weeks just to get him there so he could shuffle more papers, and perhaps make more faulty identification.
Cape Codders set the bar high for their elected officials. Senator Brown just crashed into that bar and took a good thunk on his noggin. When he regains his senses perhaps Senator Brown will be more careful in his pronouncements about national security matters.