When it comes to operational security, whom would you trust—the men and women who live and die based on their ability to operate covertly, or politicians who campaign for a living?
Based on recent reactions to a new documentary claiming that leaks from the Obama administration damage the effectiveness of our special operations and intelligence forces, the media and the President apparently want us to side with the politicians.
Recently the video Dishonorable Disclosures: How Leaks and Politics Threaten National Security was released. It was produced by the Special Operations Political Committee (OPSEC for short), composed of former special operators and intelligence agents.
OPSEC’s website states the video is part of a campaign “to combat the spike in leaks and politicization of Intelligence and Special Operations missions that threaten their effectiveness and the safety of Americans who conduct them.”
Rather than objectively examining or addressing the claims found in the video, the media and President Barack Obama have opted to smear the warriors instead.
“I don’t take these folks too seriously,” Obama told The Virginian-Pilot in an interview. “One of their members is a birther who denies I was born here, despite evidence to the contrary. You’ve got another who was a tea party candidate in a recent election. This kind of stuff springs up before election time.”
Nothing to see here – they are tea partiers and birthers, after all! But these folks that Obama has relegated to little more than a dirty Republican trick are individuals whose lives depended on the operational security that the president and his administration are endangering.
The leaks are so numerous and critical that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) requested a joint hearing with the Senate Armed Services Committee to investigate the leaks. “I have been on the Intelligence Committee for 11 years,” Feinstein said, “and I have never seen it worse than this.”
We should consider what the OPSEC members have to say before we dismiss them as the president has.
The New York Times disclosed that the United States and Israel jointly developed a specifically targeted, highly-advanced computer virus that temporarily derailed part of the Iranian nuclear weapons program. The article explains specifics such as which Israeli unit we worked with and how the attack was carried out.
Remember, the media and Obama administration want us to trust them. While taking credit and disclosing how agents used the STUXNET worm did benefit the president politically, it certainly painted a huge target on the U.S. and Israel. And how likely will the Israelis – or any other country for that matter – be willing to work with us in the future when they will be ratted out for a bump in approval ratings?
And when those recruited by the CIA to do the job are tortured or brutally murdered, after Iranian officials read a play-by-play from the American media, will recruitment of foreign nationals be easier or more difficult?
The American spy who wasn’t American
ABC News outed a daring U.S. double agent who had infiltrated an al Qaeda cell in Yemen and reportedly derailed a bomb plot on a U.S. bound airliner. But shortly after, we learned that the operation was in fact a joint British-Saudi endeavor and not American, and the media ran with the story while the operation was still underway.
American intelligence in fact had nothing to do with the operation and only learned of it shortly before the operation. But now al Qaeda knows who infiltrated them, how it was done, and who helped. Plus, much of would we would have gained from the operation was destroyed by the leak – years of someone else’s hard, dangerous work down the drain.
Again, we are not to trust operators and spies – only the administration. But what foreign intelligence service will want to bring the U.S. in on their activities when they know that someone will burn their agent while taking the credit?
The next time foreign intelligence services learn of a terrorist plot to blow up a U.S. bound airliner, they will have to weigh their decision on whether or not informing the Americans will take down their own intelligence network.
The administration announced that the president maintains a list of terrorists targeted for drone strikes. Leaking this could paint the president as tough on terrorism if you view everything in terms of politics, but it has virtually no positive effect on national security. If Obama wants to appear tough on terrorism, he should let the record speak for itself.
The bin Laden Raid
When members of the Navy’s top-tier counterterrorist unit, commonly referred to as SEAL Team Six, raided Osama bin Laden’s stronghold in Abbottabad, Pakistan last year, the SEALs collected a great deal of intelligence that could have caused al Qaeda far more damage than the death of their leader.
That is, until President Obama took to the microphones moments after the raid, to announce the death of bin Laden. Al Qaeda members worldwide would have eventually learned that bin Laden was dead and the U.S. had captured much of their most sensitive information. Instead, our president got the word out for them, rendering the intelligence virtually useless. Senior leaders (which we could have captured or killed) were able to escape, communications networks (that we could have monitored) shut down, and so on.
That is not to say that the president should not have told Americans that we killed the man behind the 9/11 attacks. But why announce so soon, making the intelligence we collected virtually useless?
How well do you think the Pakistani doctor and his family were treated after leaks that it was his cooperation that led to the death of bin Laden? Who benefits by naming the unit responsible for the raid?
President Obama needlessly placed the operators and their families at a greater risk for no reason.
The deluge of sensitive information flowing from the administration became so bad that Robert Gates, Obama’s former Defense Secretary, reportedly told the National Security Adviser to “Shut the f— up!”
Our quiet professionals are sworn to secrecy for a reason—the same reason that should apply to politicians when it comes to national security.
How significant the various leaks were to national security is a matter of debate. But make no mistake. The leaks this president and the administration he presides over will have a long-lasting effect on our human intelligence capabilities. These leaks coming out of Washington mean less people willing to work with us. And since intelligence determines who lives and dies on the battlefield, less intelligence is a very bad thing.
“Leaks such as this threaten ongoing operations,” said FBI Director Robert Mueller, “puts at risk the lives of sources, makes it much more difficult to recruit sources and damage our relationships with our foreign powers.”
When it comes to covert operations, the world doesn’t need to know who did it, or how they did it – only that it happened.