WASHINGTON – With the Trump administration working to plug a steady flow of leaks from both within the White House and government agencies, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) on Thursday said that the U.S. needs to “re-cage” itself and get back to keeping secrets.
Issues with bureaucrats leaking sensitive information to the media and reports that President Trump himself recently disclosed highly classified information with Russian officials at the White House are both equally troubling, the congressman said during an appearance at the Wilson Center.
“I think leaks on both ends are dangerous, and if we could just re-cage and say who gives a rat’s backside about the politics of the moment, let’s get back to being Americans again,” he said. “Let’s protect information.”
Kinzinger said that the commander in chief is in his right legally to release classified information, but ethically, it’s “extremely wrong.” To justify such an action, said Kinzinger, an Air Force veteran who served in both Afghanistan and Iraq, the president needs to brief his security team to make sure it’s in the nation’s best interest and also get authorization from pertinent allies.
Kinzinger also discussed the ongoing investigation into allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, describing two extreme responses to reports surrounding the situation. While Democrats are calling for impeachment over obstruction of justice, Republicans have been dismissing every new report as “fake news,” the congressman said, adding that both reactions are irresponsible.
“Whatever the answer – we need to know,” he said.
A bulk of Thursday’s discussion was devoted to the now 16-year war in Afghanistan, as well as regional conflicts. Kinzinger, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called for more military strikes in Afghanistan and looser rules of engagement for both U.S. and NATO forces, describing a “ridiculous” amount of caveats when it comes to deploying airstrikes.
Winning the war on terror, Kinzinger said, is a generational battle, and it won’t be won through military force alone. Pushing back ISIS and al-Qaeda where they are rooted is essential, he added.
“(The U.S. needs to send) the message to the caliphate that this is not, in fact, the prophesized caliphate because if this was the prophesized caliphate you wouldn’t be losing. Sending that message is essential,” he said.
The enemy’s next generation of fighters, he said, is potentially developing inside refugee camps today, with 7- and 8-year-old children who have been displaced by war – young individuals who are not being educated in the camps and not learning how to read and write. The next generation must reject terrorism from the inside, he stressed.
“We have to be very careful to give opportunity to the next generation, or else we will face them on the battlefield at some other time,” Kinzinger said.
The congressman also touched on presidential power and what he described as an embarrassing moment for U.S. military operations: President Obama’s “red line” on Syria’s use of chemical weapons in 2013. That year, the president sent a draft resolution to Congress authorizing U.S. military force against Syria. Obama, Kinzinger said, failed to make the case for military involvement around the world when the administration didn’t follow through on the red line. At the same time, Kinzinger described faults in the current administration’s military stance.
“This administration relies too heavily on the military side of it, and not on – I’m not going to use the term nation-building because it’s disparaged – but not on kind of institution, democracy promotion,” he said.