Congressional Panel Should Investigate Ryan Zinke

The Montana Street Fighter blog reminded me today of a story I planned to keep discussing: the fact that former State Senator and potential future Congressional candidate Ryan Zinke outed Navy SEAL Team Six to improve his own political prospects.

No doubt persuaded in part by almost non-stop terrible stories like this one in Fox News suggesting the government compromised the security of Navy SEAL Team Six, Congressional Republicans have opened an investigation into the 2011 helicopter crash that killed members of the team which killed bin Laden.

The right-wing Washington Times explains the conspiracy theory which refuses to die:

Navy SEAL Team 6 became a household name for their role in killing Osama bin Laden. On May 1, 2011, the country rightly celebrated the death of bin Laden. The Obama administration, however, wanted to do more. It sought to claim full credit for the assassination, deciding to spike the football. On May 3, at an event in Washington, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. did the unthinkable: He publicly revealed the identity of the special-operations unit responsible for bin Laden’s killing. His reckless action put at risk the lives of every member of SEAL Team 6. The Taliban and other jihadists eager to avenge bin Laden now knew which unit to target. Stunned and shocked, SEAL members immediately realized they were going to be hunted by al Qaeda sympathizers.

Karen Vaughn, the mother of slain SEAL Aaron Vaughn, says that within hours after Mr. Biden’s comments, her son called to tell her to wipe away every piece of information regarding the family on social media, Facebook and Twitter. “I never heard Aaron that afraid in his life,” Mrs. Vaughn said in an interview. “He told me: ‘Mom, we’re picking up chatter. We’re not safe. You’re not safe. Delete everything.’”

Right wing attorney Larry Klayman has gone so far as to introduce a lawsuit alleging that Vice President Biden violated the law by revealing that SEALs were involved in the raid.

That theory has one enormous hole: it was former State Senator Ryan Zinke who released the name of the team responsible for the raid, at least a full day before Vice President Biden made far less specific remarks.

Timestamps on online news sources as well as the statement of long-time Montana political reporter Mike Dennison confirm that Zinke released the information before other media sources. Al Qaeda does have access to the Internet; if anyone jeopardized the team by mentioning them, it was Senator Zinke.

I’ve written before that I don’t believe the conservative conspiracy about the SEALs who tragically lost their lives in Afghanistan; it’s far more likely to have been a horrifying coincidence in a horrifying and confusing war.

If Republicans in Congress are serious about investigating this leak of information and not just making political theater for the “Fast and Furious” crowd, they’d better start with the person who first did the leaking, someone who may well imagine he’s going to join their ranks.

If not, they’ll simply be continuing the worst kind of political hypocrisy: the kind that exploits the memory of some incredibly brave men for nothing more than partisan politics.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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  • There seems little doubt that Zinke will run for the U.S. House if Daines decides to run for the U.S. Senate. But I don’t think Zinke’s a strong candidate. If Daines does run for the senate, I think State Senator Jon Sonju, of Kalispell, who says he’ll run for the house if Daines runs for the senate, is a much stronger candidate than Zinke and would win the nomination.

    I do wonder whether the Livingstone/Zinke bus is available for another tour with a losing campaign.

  • The official said many in the room were worried about losing their jobs should the mission go wrong. The official added that one of the reasons Panetta came down on the side of approving the raid was he had met with his intelligence team — and even one of the most pessimistic analysts put a high percentage on the likelihood that bin Laden was indeed in that compound.

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