Longtime CIA operative Fred Rustmann tells Newsmax that the liberal writer who called Navy SEALs gutless is either “very brave” or “very stupid.”
Rustmann, a member of a new political action committee that includes former SEALs, also says the Obama administration’s intelligence leaks that led to the writer’s comment could ultimately cost the lives of intel sources.
And former SEAL Brandon Webb agrees, saying the leaking of sensitive information could kill Americans and put our national security at risk.
Rustmann’s PAC, the Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund, posted a 22-minute video on the Internet criticizing the Obama administration’s decision to grant filmmakers access to intelligence material for their upcoming movie about the killing of Osama bin Laden.
Bin Laden was killed on May 2, 2011, by a team of Navy SEALs who attacked his compound in Pakistan, and the video asserts that the intelligence leaks could have dire national security implications.
In response, a writer for the liberal, George Soros-funded website Media Matters, Eric Boehlert, tweeted that “former Navy SEALs don’t have guts to admit they’re running a GOP, anti-Obama campaign.”
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV on Friday, Rustmann — who spent 24 years in the CIA — says of Boehlert: “He’s either a very brave guy or very stupid guy to call a Navy SEAL gutless. It’s beyond me.”
To serve as a SEAL or as an intelligence operative in the CIA, he adds, “you have to have some serious guts.
“This is very risky business and when people leak our sources and methods — well, there’s one fellow, a Pakistani doctor, who is now in jail for 33 years” because the Pakistanis believe he helped Americans locate bin Laden.
“Everybody from the Pakistani intelligence service through the Taliban and down to al-Qaida are looking for individuals who were in that area at the time who might have been working for the CIA and were involved in the operation to locate and kill Osama bin Laden. These people are going to die if they’re found.”
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Webb, a former SEAL sniper and editor in chief of the website SOFREP (Special Operations Forces Report), also expresses outrage over Boehlert’s comment.
The SEALS in the PAC “put themselves out there front and center and that takes guts. I ask Eric Boehlert what his credentials are,” he tells Newsmax. “Has he served? Has he seen the ugliness of war and the cost on both sides? The loss of friends? I think not.
“It's safe to say that he wouldn't stand in the same room with any of these SEALs and mutter the word gutless.
“Politics aside, I'm glad this group is making an issue and educating citizens to the very serious consequences of intel leaks from Washington. The consequences of leaking sensitive information is that Americans and coalition forces die and we lose trust with foreign spies and our national security is put at risk.”
And Ryan Zinke, another former SEAL and a member of the PAC that created the video, tells Newsmax that calling a SEAL gutless “is nuts, and yet another attempt to discredit honorable service and sacrifice for our country.”
Rustmann, who worked closely with SEALs during his time with the CIA, was also asked about the comments of Bob Beckel, a liberal who works at Fox News, who said the SEALs featured in the film “Dishonorable Disclosures” should “take their benefits and go home.”
Rustmann declares: “I think he’s a jerk. That’s what I think.”
The intelligence leaks cited by the PAC’s video are said to have come from high-ranking White House staff members. Rustmann was asked if the leaks were motivated by political concerns, or resulted from the ignorance of people who did not fully understand the repercussions.
“I don’t know, but I will say this: People who have security clearances in the government and work in secure facilities in the government like the CIA, their security clearance is a part of their job. If they lose their security clearance, they lose their job. So they understand the need to keep secrets.
“A lot of security clearances, however, are given out to people by virtue of their job, from the president on down. Elected officials, staffers, what not, they have to see classified information and so they’re given clearances.
They’re not really attuned to working in that kind of an environment and they’re more likely to leak stuff because they don’t really get it.
“For a person with a security clearance like me, for example, all the things I write I have to pass through the agency for clearance, to make sure that I didn’t inadvertently disclose any classified information. This is a contract. And if you breach that contract you can be sued legally and it’s a criminal offense.
“These guys, I think, a lot of them don’t understand that. I think a lot of them probably couldn’t get a clearance to work in the CIA’s cafeteria if they applied for a job there. They just got the clearance by virtue of their appointment or their election.”
Webb shares those sentiments: “Our political election system and national security are in trouble and it got this way because of career politicians that make decisions regarding their next election cycle instead of being civic-minded.
“The only light I see at the end of the tunnel is a train coming at them and the train conductors are unhappy American patriots from all walks of life."
He did say, however, that President Obama “has been exceptional on the national security front with the exception of some damaging leaks. Bin Laden is dead, period, and that was a huge blow to the radical Islamic movement.
“The U.S. Commander of Special Operations Command, Admiral [William] McRaven, said it best when he gave full credit to the president for making the decision. I know McRaven personally and he's a man of high integrity. He wouldn't say this about the president unless it was genuine.”
Rustmann was also asked to compare the intelligence leaks criticized by the SEALs video and the leaking of Valerie Plame’s identity as a CIA agent.
“It was terrible that her name was leaked. That is against the law. That is a leak of classified information,” he tells Newsmax.
“But I thought the witch hunt that went on after the people that may have leaked this, because it was a Republican administration at the time, was much ado about nothing.
“I thought that the leak was probably inadvertent. And as it turned out, we know that Secretary [Richard] Armitage was the guy that did it and he did it inadvertently. It was not with any malice. It was not in an effort to ‘gotcha’ anybody. It was an inadvertent slip of the tongue and the reason was because Valerie was at that time working in a position that didn’t appear to be a covert position and she didn’t appear to be a covert operative.”
As for the fact that his PAC has not revealed its donors, Rustmann says: “I’m not a lawyer and I’m not involved in that part of it. I’m just an old CIA grunt who is very concerned about these leaks, that’s all.”
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