The current Administration is battling a wall of bricks in which the mortar between the bricks is made of a cheap faulty material causing leaks. The bricks are self-explanatory as the colossal and growing intelligence network, including but not limited to the three letter intelligence agencies, the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security and the Executive Branch. The mortar itself becomes harder to define. Without mortar there would be leaks but is it also the fault of the brick for not providing adhesiveness as well? Is it fair to say that it’s solely the mortar that is the source of the leaks? Add the infamous “fourth branch” brick of the government, the media, and the mortar becomes even less adhesive. It almost pulls away from the bricks entirely, allowing a deluge of information to flow through.
The latest story of the 24-hour news cycle involves a massive document dump provided by Wikileaks. The website has released thousands of documents allegedly obtained through a US service member who was serving in Afghanistan. Included in these documents are actual State Department cables and video footage depicting the deaths of the fourth branch’s very own, two Reuters journalists. These classified military documents also point to ties between top Pakistan officials and the Taliban. It is interesting when Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency cries foul and accuses the U.S. of not being able to control its own intelligence leaks while at the same time continuing to accept over $1 billion in aide annually.
In an attempt to control the latest intelligence leak, Robert Gibbs, President Obama’s Press Secretary commented that while the intelligence leak didn’t reveal anything that was not already known about the conflict, some of the information could be damaging. Does this mean that these documents contained information that a regular citizen could obtain through open source intelligence? And if so, why were these documents classified? The Administration criticized WikiLeaks for the disclosure and questioned its motives as an objective news outlet. A futile attempt at plugging one leak in the wall would not help the three other simultaneous leaks.
A crafty move by the founder of Wikileaks had three newspapers publishing three stories in three different jurisdictions in order to dodge a gag on releasing what the documents revealed. The British Guardian, Germany’s Der Spiegel and the New York Times all had access to the documents weeks before Wikileaks turned on the faucet. This bombshell coupled with the Washington Post’s recent three-day spree, “Top Secret America”, on the Intelligence Community has certainly given the fourth branch some leverage. Both stories have provided the media leverage, purporting a rise of public opinion citing the Afghanistan war as unpopular and support of the war as eroding.
Leaks have played a pivotal role historically; from the Iran-Contra Affair, “Deep Throat” (the FBI’s own Mark Felt), the “Pentagon Papers”, the more recent New York Times 2005 piece about government eavesdropping without a warrant and now Wikileaks. 2010 has already proven to be the year of leaks by the Internet and via email. Just a few days ago information about the National Security Administration’s classified contract “Perfect Citizen”, (awarded to Raytheon) became public, through an email obtained by the Wall Street Journal. Raytheon’s contractual duties include placing Intrusion Detection Sensors (IDSs) across the country, primarily targeting critical infrastructures.
One of Raytheon’s own employees leaked this information. This segues to the two levels of leaks: a top-level leak serving some administration purpose or the bottom level leak, home to the underground whistleblower. At what level was this leak performed? Was it to serve Raytheon as a whole or was an employee just blowing a whistle by including the language “Big Brother” to warn the public that their every move would be tracked? Perhaps “Perfect Citizen” is tracking Joe Smith who is buying a new pair of shoes on his work laptop or even me as I write this essay. Every Administration has excoriated leakers but has routinely used the practice itself. When it comes to leaking from a private corporation you don’t have to worry about the Pentagon launching an all out manhunt, perhaps just your job when they sift through your hard-drive.