Obama team revives ‘birther’ claim to fend off veterans’ criticism

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama‘s aides and allies are trying to undermine an emerging campaign by former soldiers who are slamming the White House for what they see as a willingness to betray the nation’s secrets in exchange for publicity.

His aides released a plea from Sen. John Kerry late Friday, urging supporters to ignore the Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund’s hard-hitting criticisms. OPSEC is military jargon for operational security.

The email from Kerry did not include any evidence that Obama’s aides were not responsible for the release of the secrets to the media.

Those secrets included the existence of a U.S. spy in al-Qaida, as well as secret details about the successful killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011. Those details included the existence of a U.S. spy network in Pakistan.

The release of secrets has prompted bipartisan criticism from senators and representatives.

Kerry’s email was accompanied by a second message from Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt.

With the subject line “Forwarded Without Comment,” LaBolt’s message consisted of article which said the head of a different group of veterans — not the Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund — believes Obama was born outside the United States.

The article, published in Foreign Policy, quoted Larry Bailey, who founded the unrelated Special Operations Speaks organization, saying “I have to admit that I’m a Birther.”

LaBolt’s effort to associate the birther movement with the Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund is likely intended to mute the impact of the group’s charges.

Democrats have chosen to be sensitive to criticism from veterans because they blame a veterans groups for derailing Sen. Kerry’s 2004 run for the presidency.

“Seeing the new outrageous attacks made against President Obama from a shadowy Republican-allied veterans group called OPSEC, which take issue with the mission to kill Osama bin Laden, remind me all too well of the notorious ‘Swift Boat’ attacks I faced in the 2004 campaign,” Kerry’s email declared.

That group of veterans, “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth,” said then that Kerry exaggerated his Vietnam combat activities; Kerry’s supporters tried to refute the group’ charges. After he lost to President George W. Bush, they angrily declared that their new neologism — “swiftboated” — should be used to describe people who are unfairly criticized.

The OPSEC group’s mission statement, according to its website, is to “stop the politicians, President Obama and others, from politically capitalizing on US national security operations and secrets!”

The group also says it aims to “educate the public on the importance and necessity of Operational Security in today’s environment.”

Its 22-minute video, titled “Dishonorable Disclosures,” has been viewed nearly 1 million times on YouTube since its Aug. 15 launch.

Kerry’s email did not make an argument against the group’s concerns, but accused it of lying and smearing Obama unfairly.

“No matter how self-evidently false the attacks are, or how disreputable the people telling them may be, there’s no attack that can’t take hold,” said Kerry. “It’s easy to look at the attacks, smears, and lies being told about President Obama and his record and say, ‘Come on, that’s ridiculous. No one could possibly believe that,'” said Kerry’s email.

Kerry’s email was released the same week that Vice President Joe Biden told a group of Africa-American supporters in Virginia that Gov. Mitt Romney would “put y’all back in chains,” if he is elected in November.

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Neil Munro