Tuesday, September 11, 2012

How do you punish security breaches when they start at the top?

I note (with profound cynicism) that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is calling for some sort of punishment for the author of the just-released book on the bin Laden raid.  USA today quotes him as saying:

"... people who are part of that operation -- who commit themselves to the promise that they will not reveal the sensitive operations and not publish anything without bringing it through the Pentagon, so that we can ensure that it doesn't reveal sensitive information -- when they fail to do that, we have got to make sure that they stand by the promise they made to this country."

TIME magazine's Battleland editorializes:

If one of the nation’s top warriors can’t be counted on to stick to his pledge, what hope is there for the rest of us? By all accounts, he ignored his signed promise to let his work be reviewed by the government prior to publication. The government is weighing legal action against him. ”I cannot, as secretary, send a signal to SEALs who conduct those operations, ‘Oh, you can conduct these operations and then go out and write a book about it,’” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told CBS News Tuesday morning. “How the hell can we run sensitive operations here that go after enemies if people are allowed to do that?”

. . .

No good can come from a SEAL telling his story, his way, when he has sworn not to do so.

The nation knows the SEALs are human. But stripping away their anonymity, and detailing their foibles and stumbles — never mind their tactics, techniques and procedures — is four-star self-aggrandizement. Writing books and speaking before television cameras takes them, and the nation they are charged with defending, down a peg, or three. It can only make the next mission, or the one after it, that much tougher.

More at the link.

Trouble is, all the negative reactions to the author's revelations ignore the fundamental fact that he's following the example set for him by his Commander-in-Chief.  How the hell are you going to prosecute Matt Bissonnette when President Obama and his minions compromised national security in general, and the bin Laden raid in particular, to an even greater extent, arguably for the most tawdry and self-serving of reasons - to benefit his political career?  If anyone thinks that wasn't why Hollywood was given such unfettered access to that information, I have a bridge in Brooklyn, NYC I'd like to sell you.  Cash only, please, and in small bills.

Let me be clear - I don't support what Mr. Bissonnette has done, and I believe he has betrayed the promises he made and the trust of his comrades in arms.  I won't be buying or reading his book for that reason.  Nevertheless, if this case comes to court, I'd love to see his defense team request the dismissal of all charges, on the grounds that he merely followed the example of his Commander-in-Chief.  If I were the judge, I'd have to acknowledge that this is an almost unassailable defense.  If the judge doesn't buy that argument, then I'd like to see the defense team subpoena President Obama, Secretary Panetta, and everyone else involved in giving Hollywood access to the same secrets about which Mr. Bissonnette wrote, to explain why they shouldn't be on trial as well and/or suffer the same punishment (if any) meted out to the author.  It should be better than a three-ring circus!


1 comment:

shovelDriver said...

It appears that the form is - absent any data identifying a holder of SSI - a completely unclassified form. Why then did we have to wait for it to be "shared"? Aren't there any real investigative reporters and editors left? Or could it be that they are just so accepting of the crap released by the administration? I mean, they wouldn't want to place their access and perks into jeopardy, now would they?

Pointing out some discrepancies here:

. . . I hereby agree that I will never divulge anything marked as SCI or that I know to be SCI . . .

. . . in order to ensure that I know whether information or material within my knowledge or control that I have reason to believe might be SCI, or related to or derived from SCI, . . .

. . . agree to submit for security review by the Department or Agency that last authorized my access to such information or material, any writing or other preparation in any form, including a work of fiction, that contains or purports to contain any SCI or description of activities that produce or relate to SCI that I have reason to believe are derived from SCI . . .

. . . These restrictions are consistent with and do not supersede, conflict with or otherwise alter the employee obligations, rights, or liabilities created by Executive Order 12356; Section 7211 of Title 5, United States Code (governing disclosures to Congress); Section 1034 of Title 10, United States Code, as amended by the Military Whistleblower Protection Act . . . .

I find those extracts remarkable in that nothing "known or marked" as SCI was divulged, else the writer would be under the jail; the author has stated that he had "no reason to believe" it might be SCI; that "related to or derived from SCI" is overly broad and indefensible, in that "everything" can be said to be derived from and/or related to SCI (and not just "formerly" SCI); and that those restrictions DO NOT and lawfully cannot supersede or alter employee (and citizen) rights, nor obligations to report what are believed to be criminal activities, but still appear to be an attempt to provide blanket protection for government actions that could be determined to be criminal in nature.

Just saying some thought needs to be given to the issues, but a closed secretive government-only court would not be the place to determine the rightness of the whichness.