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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ryan Says Obama Leaks Led to Doctor\'s Sentence


ASHWAUBENON, Wis. - Representative Paul D. Ryan accused the White House on Wednesday of leaking information that led to a 33-year prison sentence for a Pakistani doctor who helped American intelligence locate Osama bin Laden.

Dr. Shakil Afridi was found guilty of treason in May by a tribal court following his arrest after the raid by Navy SEALs last year that killed Bin Laden. American officials, who said Dr. Afridi used the cover of a vaccination clinic to seek DNA samples from the Bin Laden family in Abbottabad, have insisted that Pakistani officials leaked his identity, not Americans. Nonetheless, Mr. Ryan laid the responsibility on the Obama administration.

“Let me be careful in my words but be really clear,'' Mr. Ryan said here in response to an audience question about Dr. Afridi during a town-hall-style event. “These leaks on national security coming from the White House undermine the men and women who put risks on their lives for us.''

Mitt Romney and other Republicans have accused the White House of leaking classified details about the Bin Laden raid to exploit it politically. Critics have called those accusations an attempt to diminish Mr. Obama's greatest foreign policy triumph.

“I suppose it could have served some short-term political gain, could have told some nice story,'' Mr. Ryan said. “But let's ask this question: If you're a doctor in Pakistan and the American government asks you to help in the future, what do you think you're going to do? How are we going to get people to help us in the war on terror if this is how we treat our allies in the war on terror?''

Mr. Ryan's response received a stan ding ovation and the longest applause of his hourlong appearance.

The British newspaper The Guardian broke the news of Dr. Afridi's help for the C.I.A. in July 2011, two months after Bin Laden was killed, with an article written from Pakistan. Its sources appear to have been largely, if not exclusively, Pakistani officials.

American officials did subsequently confirm some details about the operation, but some of them said specifically that they were speaking about the doctor's role to correct misinformation and make clear that he had not acted against Pakistani interests.

The Obama administration has prosecuted six cases of leaks of classified information to the news media, more than under all previous presidents combined. Nonetheless, conservatives continue to suggest that the leaks are intended to burnish the administration and that they endanger allies.

Scott Shane contributed reporting to this post from Washington.