Former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ obsession with hunting down leaks was revealed in an inspector general’s report that investigated the disclosure to The Washington Post of a preliminary report on homosexuals in the military.
Even though the report did not contain secrets, the inspector general said, Mr. Gates demanded the inquiry because it violated rules on documents labeled “for official use only.”
The IG questioned 96 of 101 officials who had access to the report and concluded that the source could not be identified. Five White House officials, likely sources for the leak, refused to be interviewed.
The report provided an inside look at how officials from the military services, public affairs offices and other Pentagon offices tried to gain access to the restricted document on lifting the ban on acknowledged homosexuals.
In response to mounting requests to see one of the 57 copies, Robert Rangel, Mr. Gates’ special assistant, sent a memo that stated:
“SecDef directs the following: No additional copies provided. If the Services want to grow the number of officials with access, they need to use [non-disclosure agreements] for all involved
After publication, the IG said Douglas Wilson, assistant defense secretary for public affairs, told officials, “I think we do need to address the fact that this has been leaked. We need to do this without implicitly indicating that the leaker’s information is either right or wrong.”
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell is quoted in the report as attempting to spin or mislead one of the reporters, telling him “you are being taken for a ride to some degree here because this [draft report] is far more nuanced and complex a study than you have reduced it to in your story this morning.”
The IG report concluded that “evidence otherwise accessible to us was insufficient to identify the Washington Post’s unnamed sources.” It noted that because the report was shared with several people outside the Pentagon, “we could not exclude the possibility that persons outside [the Department of Defense] provided information to the Washington Post.”
Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, the group that obtained the IG report, said the investigation “strongly suggests that the socalled Pentagon ‘study’ of gays in the military in 2010 was a publicly funded, prescripted production put on just for show.”
“The administration misused military personnel, resources and facilities to help President Obama deliver on political promises to gay activists at the expense of unknowing troops who ting his mark on two wars, homosexuals in the military and a ballooning defense budget.
The latter two would not appear to make him popular within the Marine Corps. Its top brass opposed repealing the ban on acknowledged homosexuals. On the budget, Mr. Gates terminated the Corps’ top priority of a new amphibious fighting vehicle to get Marines from ship to shore.
But former Marine Commandant James T. Conway has nothing but admiration for Mr. Gates. The two served nearly simultaneous four-year stints and worked closely together.
Gen. Conway told special correspondent Rowan Scarborough that he mostly admired Mr. Gates’ commitment to troop morale and well-being.
He recalled the 2008 Commandant’s Marine Corps Birthday Ball, a gala every year in Washington. The guest of honor pulled out at the last moment. When Gen. Conway next went to Mr. Gates, the defense secretary reminded him on that Saturday that he would be returning from one of his more grueling trips.
“I said, ‘Mr. Secretary we need a guest of note,’ ” he recalled. He said, ‘Jim, I’m coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq, a 10-or 11-day visit on the very day of your event. But,’ he said, ‘I’ll do it.’ He was incredible. He came and spoke to us and brought the house down. [. . . ] That is one I love him for.”
Bill Gertz can be reached at insidether firstname.lastname@example.org.