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A senior federal law enforcement official tells ABC News the government is tracking the phone numbers we call in an effort to root out confidential sources.

Human intelligence (traditional “spying”) is in part successful because people have a sense of trust that the guy (intelligence officer) who is talking you (impending traitor) into doing something illegal isn’t going to rat you out to the authorities and that if things get hairy he might even give you a hand in getting out of dodge. Might never happen, but you have a sense of trust that it is a hand that might be dealt to you. The whole system falls apart if there is no trust, like if you are thinking of working for a foreign intelligence service and people in that very service launch a campaign to leak secrets to reporters.

Someone once asked if we should be jailing reporters for publishing stories about classified programs. I’m in the camp that feels that the law is fairly clear on this topic. However, the reality of the situation is that there is no way of telling the difference between a legitimate whistleblower, a disgruntled nut-job, or a political hack, than to shine the light of publicity on the story. Short of dramatic new whistleblower protections, the only real way of sorting the gallant from the goofs is to weaken the trust between insider and reporter.  

People without a legitimate complaint are less likely to risk their careers, pensions, and freedom if they know that the reporters they work with are likely to expose them (intentionally or otherwise). People pointing out legitimate abuses will not exactly revel in their eventual exposure, but the associated publicity can only help in their cause. Reporters would still be able to publish exposés about the secret world, but they’d be less likely to serve as tools of political operatives if they knew that sooner rather than later their connections to centers of partisanship would be revealed (and associated objectivity torn to shreads).

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji spent nearly 20 years in the US intelligence community. Trained in both SIGINT and HUMINT disciplines he has worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the National Reconnaissance Office. At various points in his career he served as an expert in information warfare, computer network operations, computer forensics, and indications and warning. A veteran of the US Army, Michael has served in both strategic and tactical assignments in the Pacific Theater, the Balkans, and the Middle East.