A Leaking Ship

This is a good point. (H/t Insty)

Trump is plausibly guilty of some very bad judgment in his sharing of American secrets -- the deployment and precise number of American nuclear submarines near Korea, for example. It was the press, however, that shared that information with the world. Perhaps the President shouldn't have shared with the Russians information that might lead them to a sensitive source belonging to an allied government. It was the press, however, that made sure that everyone in the world knew just which government.

And, as the author points out, it was the press who made sure that the Manchester bombing cell knew everything the US had been informed by our British allies. Before the cell had been rolled up. While it was still a threat to England's eight-year-old girls.

These aren't ordinary citizens, these leakers, but people who have passed security clearance investigations at high levels. Everything we think we know about how to find the people who will loyally protect crucial secrets has to be called into question in light of this continual bad behavior. If it comes to the point that an American president cannot trust anyone who is not from his own political faction, American presidents will make it a habit to purge these security institutions at every election. That will greatly harm everyone, not only by removing the people with experience from these positions but also by dangerously politicizing these institutions.

There is much to criticize where the President is concerned, but he is not doing the lion's share of the damage right now. People who think of themselves as security and intelligence professionals are. Our systems for ensuring that such professionals exist are being badly undermined, and with them, the existence of reliable security and intelligence institutions at all.


MikeD said...

I'll go one further. Having worked in the Intelligence Community, they're not just breaking the law, they're oathbreakers, and in my view active spies. While it's true they're not in the employ of foreign powers, they're still achieving much the same goal (giving information over to someone who will eventually get it into the hands of foreign powers).

And I believe the American press is complicit in their espionage. Picture if you will, someone hands over technical specifications for a nuclear device to the New York Times. And they publish it. Is that Freedom of the Press, or espionage? Of course it's espionage. But they'd claim they have a right to print it. Perhaps good sense would still keep them from doing so (as it is obviously dangerous to put specifications for a nuclear device into the hands of literally everyone), but the problem is, such a decision rests with them to not publish it. And they don't see the danger in what they're printing currently, because their overriding priority is to hurt the Trump Administration. They would, I think, refuse to publish the leaked Manchester photos IF it had been a Democrat in the White House, because they would recognize the harm it could do to the British investigation and to US-British relations. But they simply are willing to ignore that, because Trump.

douglas said...

"... but also by dangerously politicizing these institutions."

Aren't we there already? The question is, now what?

Part of the problem is the American people neither honor oaths, nor understand the idea of keeping the secrets you swore to keep. My father was in Korea just after the war in the Army Security Agency. As such, he had a clearance and part of his job involved something with classification. I still don't know what, because even though whatever he knew is probably long since outdated and useless info, he took an oath, and not knowing for a fact that the info was declassified, won't talk about it. That's how it's supposed to work. I suppose a society that refuses to give honor it's due won't have the benefit of being able to rely on people's 'honor', will it?

Grim said...

Consider the CIA. The CIA's job -- although it has lost focus on this to some degree during the recent administration -- is to create human intelligence networks. That means (a) breaking the laws of other countries while (b) lying about what you're doing in their country, in order to (c) suborn their citizens and especially their government officials into treason. The CIA hires people it thinks will be good at this, and then trains them in the skills they need to do it effectively against the kind of surveillance and other countermeasures known to exist.

How can you allow an organization like that to exist once you can't rely on the honor of its members? But you can't just fire these people, either: that sets them free to pursue their skills within your country. You know just who they are because they worked for you, and you can't just let them go free.

It's a very dangerous road for these people to be taking their institutions down. It's dangerous to the country, to the institution, and to all of their comrades within these institutions.

MikeD said...

Part of the problem is the American people neither honor oaths, nor understand the idea of keeping the secrets you swore to keep.

Well, you provided a counter-example of this directly after this quote. And I also keep my oaths, so that's at least two Americans who do both.

douglas said...

There are a few. Key word- few.