OODA OriginalUncategorized

Why Indeed?

WaPo associated editor Robert Kaiser tries to justify the publication of secrets. The gem:

Labeling something “classified” or important to “national security” does not make it so. The government overclassifies with abandon. And the definition of “national security” is elusive. Some politicians act as though revealing any classified information threatens our nation’s security, but that seems preposterous.

WTF IMI. Actually, yes, labeling something “classified” or determining that it is important to “national security” does indeed make it so. We have a whole system built around these concepts. A system built on policies and regulations and LAWS. Guess who gets to determine what is and isn’t important in that system? I’ll give you a hint: not journalists and not leakers.

There are other choice items but I’m particularly fond of his attempt to decry the rise in classified documents created between 2001 and today, as if nothing has happened in that span of time that might merit such an increase. Does the government over-classify? Sure, but once again, there is a system to sort that out; if you wanted to do more than just pay lip-service to the concept of responsible reporting you’d work within the system to find out what you need. It happens all the time.

Contrast the desperate desire to hold the First Amendment sacrosanct, yet the complete and utter disregard for the Seventh. Every soldier or Marine is a walking atrocity-machine, yet last time I checked you are supposed to be tried by a jury; not an editorial board or a graduate of the CSJ.

I’m not against responsible disclosure. The system we have for creating and protecting secret information is justified, but in time even the most sensitive information loses its value. A more timely, effective and regular declassification regimen would go a long way in helping improve people’s perceptions of what goes on in the intelligence umbra, but even if the current approach to shedding light on government actions continues, I fail to see how revealing classified programs while they are still active serves any purpose other than to weaken our overall security and enable our adversaries. They use the term “grave” in the definition of top secret material for a reason. How do you determine if you might be publishing something too soon? I don’t know that there is an easy answer to that, but when we are actively engaged with the enemy it seems a particularly inappropriate time. Don’t aim for ancient history, just plain history will do.

PS: Speaking of history, if there isn’t an over-arching agenda in media coverage about the war, let’s see a Time, Post, Trib, Chron, etc. expose of this cachet of recent history.

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.