Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Classified Information and the Internet

Here at "The Stupid Shall Be Punished", I do my best not to post any classified information (which really limits the quality of what I can say in response to different news articles). In some cases, classified information may make its way into the public domain, and I may link to it. However, you hopefully won't find me saying that "This is from a secret document, and as someone known to have once had a security clearance, I'm confirming that this is what the secret document actually says". Additionally, I've never been the presidential nominee of a major party.
This is why I'm concerned about a new E-mail Sen. John Kerry sent to his supporters today. (Scroll down to today's 5:40pm entry, "Sorry, Senator: You Don't Pick The SECDEF".) (Direct link to the E-mail at the wacky Democratic Underground here; read the comments at your own risk.) This E-mail contains the following paragraph:

'In August 2003, the Joint Chiefs of Staff prepared a secret report assessing the post-war planning for Iraq. The report blamed "setbacks in Iraq on a flawed and rushed war-planning process." It also said "planners were not given enough time" to plan for reconstruction.'

The quotes he gets come from this Washington Times article, printed in September 2003. What concerns me is this: if a person known to hold a secret security clearance (such as Sen. Kerry), who presumably has access to the document in question, is holding forth these statements as true, based on a report the paragraph itself says is secret, is this not the same thing as releasing the classified information? Granted, it could have been that these quotes were taken from unclassified portions of the report. I just believe that it's "bad form" for our senior statesmen (despite what you may think of Sen. Kerry, he is still a senior Senator) to be quoting from documents they know to be secret in E-mails released into the world. Surely he could have made the same point by using an unclassified source -- let's face it, events have shown that the planning for aftermath of the Iraq War probably could have been improved.

(Disclaimer: I did work in the Planning Directorate at Central Command in the aftermath of the war, so unfortunately I can't provide any concrete examples of what happened there, due to the aforementioned secrecy issues. However, I can make a general statement to the effect that if I were to choose an organization I've worked for to be held up as a model of efficiency and clear planning, CENTCOM J5 would not be at the top of my list.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It should come as no surprise that Senators do some pretty stupid things and unfortunately are not punished. Quoting or confirming classified information seems to be one of the biggest bonehead things they do. As a former Boomer sailor from the 80's it was engrained in me the quotes "I cannot confirm or deign the presents of nuclear weapons" or "greater than 20 knots and 400 feet". The second "20 knots 400 feet" quote became necessary in WWII after a Senator revealed the operating parameters of our submarines fighting the empirical Japanese.

Senator Kerry appears to be upholding the long standing political tradition of duplicity, pretending to serve the public and military's interest while betraying their trust for political gain.

Lessons learned reviews are common in the military and do not constitute a legal judgment of fault unless, a political operative cherry picks the statements that fit their agenda. Bad form at best.

1/18/2005 9:49 PM

Blogger Andy said...

On my last boat i was the CMS custodian for about 18 months. I think that was one of the big reasons i decided to leave the navy, the stress of having to be responsible for all that crap used to keep me awake for hours at night back at tha barracks, terrified i may have made a mistake or lost Two Person Control over something. Thank god i never did, but the enormity of the responsibility of that stuff really hit home with me and triggered an obsessive compulsive behavior in me that i still deal with today. (i know, i'm pathetic, eh? *grin*). Granted, CMS is on a whole different level than a secret document partially revelaed in a mail, but it put my mind in a place to not take *anything* for granted when it comes to classified information.

On this subject, something that always bothered me were the Sandy Berger fiasco & the Oliver North scandal related to TS documents being smuggled out of offices and illegaly destroyed or "misplaced". If i had done that i'd probably still be in prison, but North is hailed as a hero to some today.
Here's an article titled "Just How Serious is 'Top Secret'?" about this very thing.

Ah, now i feel better...

1/18/2005 10:03 PM

Blogger Andy said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1/18/2005 10:03 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

We obviously have more than one person working in the sub community doing this now.

A quote from Christopher Drew's article of Jan 12 on SSN 711:

Admiral Sullivan, who is based in Hawaii, sent the e-mail messages to other Navy officials. As the messages circulated within the submarine community, two people provided copies to The New York Times, and Navy officials confirmed their authenticity.(Emphasis mine)

Granted this may have not been classified, but at the very least they were FOUO. How can anyone give official correpsondence to the New York Times without any consequences?

Article is no longer on the free part of the Times site, it is however in the Jan 12 edition of the Early bird, (accessible to anyone in DEERS). Article should be up until the end of the week.

1/19/2005 12:01 AM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

It seems that the higher you get up the food chain, the less you feel constrained by the inconveniences of "security", especially when it comes to feeding your favorite reporters to get positive mention in the press. With respect to the "Personal for" E-mail that quickly migrated to the Internet at large, the flag officers who send them out have to recognize that unfortunately anything they send out on NIPR (the unclassified Internet) will eventually make it to the world at large. There's an old saying that the chance of a secret being compromised is proportional to the square of the number of people who know it; I think the Internet has probably raised that to a cubed function, or worse...

1/19/2005 8:58 AM


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