Category Archive 'Leaks'
07 Jan 2011

Former CIA Officer Arrested For Leaking Iran Operations

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James Risen‘s source for the MERLIN story has been arrested.

It is a bit ironical, but there can be no doubt that the Obama Administration has been taking a much tougher line with leakers of National Security information than the Bush Administration ever did.

Washington Post:

A former CIA officer involved in spying efforts against Iran was arrested Thursday on charges of leaking classified information to a reporter, continuing the Obama administration’s unprecedented crackdown on the flow of government secrets to the media.

Jeffrey A. Sterling, 43, of O’Fallon, Mo., was charged with 10 felony counts, including obstruction of justice and unauthorized disclosure of national defense information. A federal indictment made public Thursday in the Eastern District of Virginia accuses Sterling of leaking secrets after he was fired from the CIA and the agency refused to settle a racial discrimination claim he made.

The intensified campaign against leaks comes as the U.S. government is confronting a potent new threat to its ability to keep secrets from public view. Over the past year, the WikiLeaks Web site has posted and shared with multiple media organizations thousands of classified U.S. military records and State Department cables.

The indictment, returned under seal last month, does not identify the alleged recipient of the classified information. But former U.S. intelligence officials and lawyers familiar with the case said that the journalist is New York Times reporter James Risen.

The officials said Sterling has long been suspected within the agency of providing Risen with extensive information about CIA efforts to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program, material that is believed to have formed the basis for a prominent chapter in Risen’s 2006 book, “State of War.” …

Other cases brought during the Obama administration include the indictment in April last year of Thomas A. Drake, a former executive at the National Security Agency accused of leaking information to the Baltimore Sun; as well as a State Department contractor indicted last August on charges of leaking information to Fox News.

The latest indictment includes details about dozens of phone calls and e-mails exchanged between Sterling and a journalist identified in the document only as Author A, beginning in 2002.

Sterling was the subject of a lengthy New York Times article by Risen in March of that year that reported Sterling’s assertion that his career had been repeatedly derailed by racial discrimination within the CIA.

Sterling was described in the piece as the “sole black officer” assigned to the Iran Task Force in January 1995. He handled Iranian sources, was subsequently trained in Farsi and was sent to a station in Germany to recruit Iranian spies.

Sterling asserts in the article that he was undermined in that job and that he was passed over for others by senior CIA officials who considered him a liability because of his skin color. At one point, he said, a supervisor told him that he couldn’t function as a spy because “you kind of stick out as a big black guy.”

Sterling, a lawyer who also sparred with senior CIA officials over his plans to publish a memoir, filed a complaint with the CIA’s antidiscrimination office in 2000 and subsequently sued the agency.

According to the indictment, about two weeks after the CIA rejected a third settlement offer from Sterling, he “placed an interstate telephone call” from his home in Herndon to the Maryland residence of Author A.

In subsequent calls and e-mails, the Justice Department alleges, Sterling shared details of sensitive CIA operations against Iran. Among them was a classified effort code-named Merlin that was designed to degrade Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program by sabotaging materials and blueprints being acquired by Iran.

The indictment indicates that Risen planned to write about the program, which Sterling portrayed as deeply flawed. The New York Times did not publish a story, but details about the Merlin operation appeared in Risen’s book.

One chapter describes a CIA plan to employ a Russian agent to offer Iran nuclear weapons blueprints that contained fatal flaws. But because the flaws were obvious and possible to overcome, the plan risked providing useful information that could “help Iran leapfrog one of the last remaining engineering hurdles blocking its path to a nuclear weapon,” according to the book.

The indictment says that a description of the plan also appeared in drafts of a memoir that Sterling submitted to CIA reviewers. CIA spokesman George Little declined to comment on the case, except to say that the agency “deplores the unauthorized disclosure of classified information.”

Federal authorities pressured Risen at least twice to testify before a grand jury investigating the case. Kelley, Risen’s attorney, said that the reporter declined to comply and that he does not expect Risen to be called as a witness if there is a trial.

According to the indictment, Sterling was aware by 2003 that the FBI was investigating him for alleged illegal disclosure of classified information. In 2004, he filed for bankruptcy protection, listing debts of $150,000.

Sterling was arrested Thursday in St. Louis. U.S. officials said he will remain in custody pending a detention hearing scheduled for Monday. He faces six charges of unauthorized disclosure and retention of national defense information, each carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Potential penalties on the remaining four charges include a 20-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $250,000.

EmptyWheel explains that Sterling has sued the CIA twice, and has a timeline.

[The first lawsuit was] an employment discrimination suit filed in NY on August 2, 2000. On April 18, 2002, the CIA first invoked state secrets in his case. On March 7, 2003, the judge in NY granted the CIA’s venue complaint and moved the case to Alexandria, VA–basically the CIA’s very own district court. On March 3, 2004, the case was dismissed. And on September 28, 2005, the Appeals Court rejected Sterling’s appeal.

Sterling’s second suit was filed on March 4, 2003 (that is, the day after his employment discrimination suit was dismissed in VA). It charges that Sterling submitted his memoirs for pre-publication review in 2002. His second submission was held up, not least to give CIA’s Office of General Counsel a review. Sterling claims that OGC got involved to give them an advantage in the NY employment discrimination suit. In December 2002, the CIA told him some of the information was classified (after having earlier said that similar information was not). Upon rejecting his submission on January 3, 2003, the CIA not only told him some of the information was classified, but they “informed Sterling that he should add information into the manuscript that was blatantly false.”

01 Dec 2010

“Every Other Government in the World Knows the United States Government Leaks Like a Sieve”

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Michael Yon passed along this email from the office of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in which Gates magisterially dismisses the significance of Julian Assange’s latest revelations.

One of the common themes that I heard from the time I was a senior agency official in the early 1980s in every military engagement we were in was the complaint of the lack of adequate intelligence support. That began to change with the Gulf War in 1991, but it really has changed dramatically after 9/11.

And clearly the finding that the lack of sharing of information had prevented people from, quote/unquote, “connecting the dots” led to much wider sharing of information, and I would say especially wider sharing of information at the front, so that no one at the front was denied — in one of the theaters, Afghanistan or Iraq — was denied any information that might possibly be helpful to them. Now, obviously, that aperture went too wide. There’s no reason for a young officer at a forward operating post in Afghanistan to get cables having to do with the START negotiations. And so we’ve taken a number of mitigating steps in the department. I directed a number of these things to be undertaken in August.

First, the — an automated capability to monitor workstations for security purposes. We’ve got about 60 percent of this done, mostly in — mostly stateside. And I’ve directed that we accelerate the completion of it.

Second, as I think you know, we’ve taken steps in CENTCOM in September and now everywhere to direct that all CD and DVD write capability off the network be disabled. We have — we have done some other things in terms of two-man policies — wherever you can move information from a classified system to an unclassified system, to have a two-person policy there. …

[L]et me just offer some perspective as somebody who’s been at this a long time. Every other government in the world knows the United States government leaks like a sieve, and it has for a long time. And I dragged this up the other day when I was looking at some of these prospective releases. And this is a quote from John Adams: “How can a government go on, publishing all of their negotiations with foreign nations, I know not.”

To me, it appears as dangerous and pernicious as it is novel.”

When we went to real congressional oversight of intelligence in the mid-’70s, there was a broad view that no other foreign intelligence service would ever share information with us again if we were going to share it all with the Congress. Those fears all proved unfounded.

Now, I’ve heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game-changer, and so on. I think — I think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought. The fact is, governments deal with the United States because it’s in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us, and not because they believe we can keep secrets. Many governments — some governments deal with us because they fear us, some because they respect us, most because they need us. We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation.

So other nations will continue to deal with us. They will continue to work with us. We will continue to share sensitive information with one another.

Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.

Ouch! One can picture Julian Assange’s flaccid lower lip protruding glumly at being so contemptuously dismissed, and in the middle of his most recent 15 minutes of fame, too.

22 Oct 2010

Wikileaks Leaks Iraq Material

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The usual gang of establishment media collaborated:

New York Times

The Guardian

Spiegel

The commentariat of the left is complaining that US forces did not stop the Iraqis from coercively interrogating enemy prisoners. The other big news is the larger involvement of Iran in the Iraq insurgency than the US government publicly reported.

Rusty Shackleford notes the hypocrisy of leftist indignation.

WikiLeaks Bombshell: US Knew Arab Regime Tortured Citizens!!!

Wow. this is the big deal? And what was the US supposed to do if they investigated claims that the Iraqi government tortured its citizens? Invade? Yeah, I bet Julian Assange, the hysterical Left, and their Islamist allies would love that.

It’s the problem with America haters like Assange, Chomsky, and Osama bin Laden: it’s a worldview where America is always in the wrong, no matter what we do.

When we act, it’s evidence of US Imperialism. When we don’t act, it’s evidence of the US not caring about brown people.

We’re damned if we do, we’re damned if we don’t.

Which makes their underlying theory of cause and effect not a theory at all. First because it’s not falsifiable. Second, because all affects are attributed to the same cause.

I think the part of the story that pisses me off the most is that Assange promised us last time he’d do a better job of vetting the documents in order to protect the lives of soldiers and civilians. So, what did he do? Gave al Jazeera complete access to them.

22 Sep 2010

“Take Away the Crowds, and Obama Gets Noticeably Smaller”

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Ulsterman interviewed a Washington insider and former advisor to the Obama election campaign and transition team, who provided a behind-the-scenes picture of the great man, as seen from close up. The reality seems to be very different from the image created by the MSM.

Obama loved to campaign. He clearly didn’t like the work of being President though, and that attitude was felt by the entire White House staff within weeks after the inauguration. Obama the tireless, hard working candidate became a very tepid personality to us. And the few news stories that did come out against him were the only things he seemed to care about. He absolutely obsesses over Fox News. For being so successful, Barack Obama is incredibly thin-skinned. He takes everything very personally. …

’ll tell you this – if you want to see President Obama get excited about a conversation, turn it to sports. That gets him interested. You start talking about Congress, or some policy, and he just kinda turns off. It’s really very strange. I mean, we were all led to believe that this guy was some kind of intellectual giant, right? Ivy League and all that. Well, that is not what I saw. Barack Obama doesn’t have a whole lot of intellectual curiosity. When he is off script, he is what I call a real “slow talker”. Lots of ummms, and lots of time in between answers where you can almost see the little wheel in his head turning very slowly. I am not going to say the president is a dumb man, because he is not, but yeah, there was a definite letdown when you actually hear him talking without the script. …

I am not going to call him stupid. He just doesn’t strike me as particularly smart. Bill Clinton is a smart guy – he would run intellectual circles around Barack Obama. And Bill Clinton loved the politics of being president. Obama seems to think he shouldn’t have to be bothered, which has created a considerable amount of conflict among his staff. …

When you take away the crowds, Obama gets noticeably smaller. He shrinks up inside of himself. He just doesn’t seem to have the confidence to do the job of President, and it’s getting worse and worse. Case in point – just a few days before I left, I saw first hand the President of the United States yelling at a member of his staff. He was yelling like a spoiled child. And then he pouted for several moments after. I wish I was kidding, or exaggerating, but I am not. The President of the United States threw a temper tantrum. The jobs reports are always setting him off, and he is getting increasingly conspiratorial over the unemployment numbers. I never heard it myself, but was told that Obama thinks the banking system is out to get him now. That they and the big industries are making him pay for trying to regulate them more. That is the frame of mind the President is in these days. And you know what? Maybe he is right, who knows?

Hat tip to Dinocrat via the Barrister.

10 Sep 2010

Double Standards on Endangering US Troops

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The American left is in the hypocritical position of applauding and giving journalism awards for publishing Intelligence leaks and out-of-context military reports inciting Islamic hostility toward the United States, while at the same time wringing its hands and piously denouncing burning a Koran or voicing opposition to locating Islamic victory-monuments-cum-recruiting-centers within the footprint of the 9/11 NYC attack.

Wikileaks is preparing another major dump of US classified documents, this time from Iraq.

A massive cache of previously unpublished classified U.S. military documents from the Iraq War is being readied for publication by WikiLeaks, a new report has confirmed.

The documents constitute the “biggest leak of military intelligence” that has ever occurred, according to Iain Overton, editor of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a nonprofit British organization that is working with WikiLeaks on the documents.

The documents are expected to be published in several weeks.

Will the New York Times editorialize against “endangering US troops” or will the Times again be one of Wikileaks’ collaborators and outlets?

Is President Obama going to plead publicly with the major news outlets and Julian Assange to stand down?

Will General Petraeus publish an editorial condemning the reckless action?

I doubt it. Endangering US troops is just ducky when the left is doing it to attack and undermine the US cause.

07 Aug 2010

US Government In Standoff With Wikileaks

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Julian Assange

The Pentagon is demanding that Wikileaks cease publishing and return immediately stolen US documents in its possession, hinting darkly at legal prosecution if the Internet news site does not comply. (Christian Science Monitor)

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Of course, it is always possible that Julian Assange and his merry band of pranksters may be less than intimidated by an adversary so clueless that its first response to the theft and publication of Top Secret military documents is to issue a directive prohibiting its own personnel from gazing at the offending web site.

This is the “Close the barn door from the inside when the horse got out” approach to security breaches. [Wired]

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Besides, Wikileaks has uploaded a password-protected file labeled “Insurance,” and believed to contain a massive collection of highly toxic State Department material, consisting of, according to a chat interview published by Wired:

260,000 classified U.S. diplomatic cables that Manning described as exposing “almost criminal political back dealings.”

“Hillary Clinton, and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning, and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available, in searchable format, to the public,” Manning wrote.

Wikileaks has arranged, in the event that the US Government succeeds in shutting down its web site, to have the password released via Cryptome.

6 August 2010. If there is a takedown of Wikileaks, the insurance.aes256 file will be available through Cryptome along with the entire files of the Wikileaks website which have been archived.

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Even without Julian Assange’s blackmail threat, Some News Agency sees problems trying to stop Wikileaks legally.

[F]rom a legal standpoint, there is probably little the U.S. government can do to stop WikiLeaks from posting the files.

It is against federal law to knowingly and willfully disclose or transmit classified information. But Assange, an Australian who has no permanent address and travels frequently, is not a U.S. citizen.

Since Assange is a foreign citizen living in a foreign country, it’s not clear that U.S. law would apply, said Marc Zwillinger, a Washington lawyer and former federal cyber crimes prosecutor. He said prosecutors would have to figure out what crime to charge Assange with, and then face the daunting task of trying to indict him or persuade other authorities to extradite him.

It would be equally difficult, Zwillinger said, to effectively use an injunction to prevent access to the data.

“Could the U.S. get an injunction to force U.S. Internet providers to block traffic to and from WikiLeaks such that people couldn’t access the website?” Zwillinger said. “It’s an irrelevant question. There would be thousands of paths to get to it. So it wouldn’t really stop people from getting to the site. They would be pushing the legal envelope without any real benefit.”

And the technical approach is problematic, too.

WikiLeaks used state-of-the-art software requiring a sophisticated electronic sequence of numbers, called a 256-bit key [to protect its “Insurance” files].

The main way to break such an encrypted file is by what’s called a “brute force attack,” which means trying every possible key, or password, said Herbert Lin, a senior computer science and cryptology expert at the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences.

Unlike a regular six- or eight-character password that most people use every day, a 256-bit key would equal a 40 to 50 character password, he said.

If it takes 0.1 nanosecond to test one possible key and you had 100 billion computers to test the possible number variations, “it would take this massive array of computers 10 to the 56th power seconds — the number 1, followed by 56 zeros” to plow through all the possibilities, said Lin.

How long is that?

“The age of the universe is 10 to the 17th power seconds,” explained Lin. “We will wait a long time for the U.S. government or anyone else to decrypt that file by brute force.”

Could the NSA, which is known for its supercomputing and massive electronic eavesdropping abilities abroad, crack such an impregnable code?

It depends on how much time and effort they want to put into it, said James Bamford, who has written two books on the NSA.

The NSA has the largest collection of supercomputers in the world. And officials have known for some time that WikiLeaks has classified files in its possession.

The agency, he speculated, has probably been looking for a vulnerability or gap in the code, or a backdoor into the commercial encryption program protecting the file.

At the more extreme end, the NSA, the Pentagon and other U.S. government agencies — including the newly created Cyber Command — have probably reviewed options for using a cyber attack against the website, which could disrupt networks, files, electricity, and so on.

“This is the kind of thing that they are geared for,” said Bamford, “since this is the type of thing a terrorist organization might have — a website that has damaging information on it. They would want to break into it, see what’s there and then try to destroy it.”

The vast nature of the Internet, however, makes it essentially impossible to stop something, or take it down, once it has gone out over multiple servers.

In the end, U.S. officials will have to weigh whether a more aggressive response is worth the public outrage it would likely bring. Most experts predict that, despite the uproar, the government will probably do little other than bluster, and the documents will come out anyway.

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Mikael Viborg, owner of PRQ hosting company at its server location

Were the Department of Defense, the NSA, or the FBI actually inclined to do anything about Wikileaks, NYM would be glad to help.

Their web site, we find, is hosted by PRQ in Stockholm, Sweden. That hosting company’s abuse reporting email is: abuse@prq.se

Be aware, however, that PRQ is associated with the notorious Swedish Bit Torrent file sharing hub The Pirate Bay.

06 Aug 2010

Wikileaks Temporarily Pauses Flow of Leaked Documents

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Newsweek Declassified explains that the Times of London story (behind subscription firewall) rocked the Wikileaks team of activists back on their heels. They expect major prizes for investigative journalism, not criticism for exposing informants to reprisals.

Apparently stung by complaints that publishing uncensored U.S. military reports could get people killed, the folks behind WikiLeaks are said to be postponing any further release of such documents.

After the site posted thousands of raw field reports from Afghanistan last week, fears arose that the material might include names or other details that might identify individuals who had collaborated with the Americans. Now, according to two sources familiar with WikiLeaks’ holdings, activists associated with the site are combing through still unreleased material in its possession, trying to “redact” potentially life-threatening information. The sources, requesting anonymity when discussing sensitive information, say it’s not clear how long the review process will take. …

Meanwhile, WikiLeaks has posted a link to something it calls an “Insurance file” of 1.4 gigabytes on its Afghan documents page. News reports suggest that this file is heavily encrypted, and the challenge of downloading has certainly proved to be well beyond Declassified’s primitive data-processing skills. Connoisseurs of paranoia will enjoy a warning from Iran’s Fars News Agency that the “insurance” posting may be an American trap to find out who’s interested in uncovering U.S. government secrets.

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As Newsweek Declassified explained (July 27) Wikileaks is sitting on an even larger load of stolen reports, focused on Iraq.

The cache of classified U.S. military reports on the Iraq War as yet unreleased by WikiLeaks may be more than three times as large as the set of roughly 76,000 similar reports on the war in Afghanistan made public by the whistle-blower Web site earlier this week, Declassified has learned.

Three sources familiar with the Iraq material in WikiLeaks hands, requesting anonymity to discuss what they described as highly sensitive information, say it’s similar to this week’s Afghanistan material, consisting largely of field reports from U.S. military personnel and classified no higher than the “secret” level. According to one of the sources, the Iraq material portrays U.S. forces being involved in a “bloodbath,” but some of the most disturbing material relates to the abusive treatment of detainees not by Americans but by Iraqi security forces, the source says.

Although WikiLeaks founder and principal operative, Julian Assange, provided three news organizations—The New York Times, London newspaper The Guardian, and the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel—with weeks of advance access to the Afghan War material before making it public himself, he’s apparently being more coy in his handling of the Iraq War material, the source indicates. Assange is keeping tighter personal control over the Iraq material than he maintained over the Afghan material, the source says, adding that it’s not clear whether any media organizations have had advance access to it or when it might be made public.

A second source says there are indications that WikiLeaks has been receiving leaked material from sources besides Bradley Manning, a U.S. Army private who recently was charged by military authorities with illegally handling classified information.

04 Aug 2010

Wikileak’s Military Logs Leak, Britain, and Julian Assange

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Julian Assange

The Pentagon is scrambling desperately to protect hundreds of Afghan informants whose names and locations were exposed in leaked military logs published recently by Wikileaks.

ABC News:

The Pentagon is adding workers to a team that is working around the clock sifting through the thousands of leaked secret documents on the Afghan war to determine whether sources have been compromised, ABC News has learned.

Sources also told ABC News that measures are being taken in Afghanistan to protect sources who may have been unmasked from Taliban revenge.

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DEBKAfile, in an article in its subscription-only version, is contending that Britain leaked the military reports published in Wikileaks.

Their arguments are that only US reports were leaked, indicating that the US was specifically being targeted. The (British) Guardian played the lead role in coordinating publication of a prefabricated storyline leveling several damaging accusations against the US and casting Julian Assange as a persecuted victim. The Guardian, New York Times, and Der Speigel all agreed to run the story as proposed and accepted the July 25 publication deadline without having actually read more than 2% of the documents.

DEBKA notes that all the leak documents cover six-year period ending in December 2009, their interval terminating at the point at which President Obama announced his new Afghanistan War strategy. DEBKA contends that the end point is deliberate, sparing Obama specific association with accusations arising from the leaked documents, but also implicitly warning that the next batch could be aimed his way.

The British motivation, according to DEBKAfile, would be Barack Obama’s systematic downgrading of the British-American special relationship on the basis of personal and ideological anti-colonialist resentments, specifically exacerbated by the administration’s vilifying BP over an unfortunate accident followed by accusations in the US Congress that BP played a role in securing the Lockerbie bomber’s release. Retired senior official from MI5 and MI6 are rumored to hold positions on BP’s board of directors.

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Meanwhile, despite MacRanger’s report that a US BOLO (“Be on the Lookout for”) had been issued for Julian Assange last week, Assange was not difficult to find.

He was quite recently delivering a self-congratulatory speech to journalists at the Frontline Club, at 13 Norfolk Street in London, in the course of which he revealed that sympathizers working inside the White House were sharing with him details of discussions about whether or not he should be arrested.

Assange previously boasted to Der Spiegel that he “enjoy[s] crushing bastards.”

19 Jul 2010

WaPo Top Secret America Website Launched Today

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The Washington Post’s sexy new multimedia web-site adversarially reporting on the US Intelligence Community’s components, contractors, facilities, size, and expenditures is, as was predicted, up and running today.

The introductory 1:47 video and a lengthy article by Dana Priest and William Arkin take a downright conservative-sounding tone of skepticism of big government, complaining about massive growth, duplication of effort, paralysis and confusion stemming from over-large bureaucracy, and an excessive cult of secrecy leading to a lack of accountability.

After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine. …

An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances. …

Many security and intelligence agencies do the same work, creating redundancy and waste. For example, 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks.

Analysts who make sense of documents and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year – a volume so large that many are routinely ignored. …

The U.S. intelligence budget is vast, publicly announced last year as $75 billion, 21/2 times the size it was on Sept. 10, 2001. But the figure doesn’t include many military activities or domestic counterterrorism programs.

At least 20 percent of the government organizations that exist to fend off terrorist threats were established or refashioned in the wake of 9/11. Many that existed before the attacks grew to historic proportions as the Bush administration and Congress gave agencies more money than they were capable of responsibly spending. …

Beyond redundancy, secrecy within the intelligence world hampers effectiveness… say defense and intelligence officers. For the Defense Department, the root of this problem goes back to an ultra-secret group of programs for which access is extremely limited and monitored by specially trained security officers.

These are called Special Access Programs – or SAPs – and the Pentagon’s list of code names for them runs 300 pages. The intelligence community has hundreds more of its own, and those hundreds have thousands of sub-programs with their own limits on the number of people authorized to know anything about them. All this means that very few people have a complete sense of what’s going on.

“There’s only one entity in the entire universe that has visibility on all SAPs – that’s God,” said James R. Clapper, undersecretary of defense for intelligence and the Obama administration’s nominee to be the next director of national intelligence.

Such secrecy can undermine the normal chain of command when senior officials use it to cut out rivals or when subordinates are ordered to keep secrets from their commanders.

One military officer involved in one such program said he was ordered to sign a document prohibiting him from disclosing it to his four-star commander, with whom he worked closely every day, because the commander was not authorized to know about it. Another senior defense official recalls the day he tried to find out about a program in his budget, only to be rebuffed by a peer. “What do you mean you can’t tell me? I pay for the program,” he recalled saying in a heated exchange.

These contentions sound reasonable, though the idea of top secret government functions and processes being reformed by even more unaccountable journalists with a record of personal career advancement via damaging leaks of highly classified intelligence operations strikes me as a case of the local foxes putting on efficiency expert Halloween costumes and volunteering to improve operations in the chicken house.

I’m not in the least persuaded that the Post really needed to publish a cool interactive map of government facility and contractor company locations and a searchable database of companies working on top secret contracting assignments. Why do Washington Post readers need such detailed information? Couldn’t foreign intelligence services do their own research?

It is also far from clear to me that Dana Priest and the Washington Post have not knowingly again violated the Espionage Act of 1917 by publishing that map and database. This time, who knows? It is much easier for a leftwing administration to undertake prosecutions of these kinds of offenses. The Obama Administration has already demonstrated more willingness to enforce the law in National Security cases than the Bush Administration ever did. It will be interesting to see how the government reacts.

Will Dana Priest go to jail or will she just collect one more Pulitzer Prize?

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Fox News says the Obama Administration is expecting some absurd spending stories and quotes Intelligence Community sources talking about what a great resource for America’s enemies that Post website is going to be.

The Obama administration is bracing for the first in a series of Washington Post articles said to focus in unprecedented detail on the government’s spending on intelligence contractors.

The intelligence community is warning that the article could blow the cover of contract companies doing top-secret work for the government. At the same time, a senior administration official acknowledged that the kind of wasteful spending expected to be spotlighted in the series is “troubling” and something the administration is trying to address.

“There will be examples of money being wasted in the series that seem egregious and we are just as offended as the readers by those examples,” the official said. The official said some of the information in the story is “explainable,” in that some “redundancy” is necessary in the intelligence community. But the official said the administration has been working to reduce “waste” and that “it’s something we’ve been on top of.”

Other sectors of the administration were on high alert over the piece. A source told Fox News that the series amounts to a “significant targeting document” in that it will apparently bring together unclassified information from the public domain in a single location, making it a one-stop shop for this level of detail. The official said “few intelligence groups have the assets and resources to pool” this kind of information.

This has led to warnings about how the information could be used. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence sent out a memo saying that “foreign intelligence services, terrorist organizations and criminal elements will have potential interest in this kind of information.”

16 Jul 2010

Breaking News: Major Intel Leak Planned by Washington Post

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Quinn Hillyer is breaking the story that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is warning federal contractors that a potentially disastrous leak of classified information by a major news outlet is on the way and is urging companies to remind their employees of their duty to protect classified information and relationships and their contractual obligation of confidentiality.

“Early next week, the Washington Post is expected to publish articles and an interactive website that will likely contain a compendium of government agencies and contractors allegedly conducting Top Secret work.”

The WaPo is expected to start the new leak site and associated coverage on Monday, July 19th.

07 Jun 2010

“Collateral Murder” Video Leaker Arrested

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SPC Bradley Manning

Back in April, Wikileaks released a video of a US Apache helicopter firing on a group of armed Iraqis in southeastern Baghdad on July 12, 2007.

The video appeared in a shorter and longer version, titled “Collateral Murder,” accompanied by an extremely partisan commentary expressing open opposition to the US military effort in Iraq. An Iraqi employed as a news photographer by Reuters and his driver were killed in the course of the helicopter’s attack.

The perspective taken by the videos editors was that the helicopter’s attack was unwarranted and a war crime, and the video was edited and annotated in a fashion designed to persuade its viewers to accept that interpretation.

In reality, the Apache was operating in close cooperation with US infantry looking for armed insurgents who had engaged American troops in fierce fighting nearby a little while earlier. The group of Iraqis encountered by the helicopter undoubtedly included armed men who, despite being “relaxed” at the time and not at the moment actively engaged in combat with American forces, could very reasonably be supposed to be some of the hostile insurgents being pursued.

The Reuters photographer’s equipment probably was mistaken for a weapon, but combat requires quick decisions based on limited and imperfect information. The level of restraint implicitly expected by the video’s producers is completely unreasonable. If a photographer is carrying equipment easily mistaken for arms and places himself in the immediate vicinity of enemy forces who are really armed, his being fired upon should be no surprise to anyone.

“Collateral Murder” is a deeply dishonest piece of anti-US propaganda, and as such it was, of course, enthusiastically covered by HuffPo, Dan Froomkin, Rachel Maddow, and the rest of the leftwing commentariat.

The source of the leak which made the Apache’s video available for use against the United States was a 22 year old Army Intelligence analyst who has just been arrested. Wired has the story:

SPC Bradley Manning, 22, of Potomac, Maryland, was stationed at Forward Operating Base Hammer, 40 miles east of Baghdad, where he was arrested nearly two weeks ago by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division. A family member says he’s being held in custody in Kuwait, and has not been formally charged.

Manning was turned in late last month by a former computer hacker with whom he spoke online. In the course of their chats, Manning took credit for leaking a headline-making video of a helicopter attack that Wikileaks posted online in April. The video showed a deadly 2007 U.S. helicopter air strike in Baghdad that claimed the lives of several innocent civilians.

He said he also leaked three other items to Wikileaks: a separate video showing the notorious 2009 Garani air strike in Afghanistan that Wikileaks has previously acknowledged is in its possession; a classified Army document evaluating Wikileaks as a security threat, which the site posted in March; and a previously unreported breach consisting of 260,000 classified U.S. diplomatic cables.

US Intelligence for a change moved rapidly on this one. The leak that made all the news was in early April.

It does seem odd that someone of such extreme leftwing views would not only be serving in the volunteer Army, but would have been assigned to work in Intelligence and given a Top Secret clearance. What does it take, one wonders, to be disqualified from high level clearances?

10 May 2010

Mullah Omar in Pakistani Custody?

, , , ,


Mullah Mohammed Omar

Brad Thor, at Breitbart, claims to be the recipient of a major Intel leak.

Through key intelligence sources in Afghanistan and Pakistan, I have just learned that reclusive Taliban leader and top Osama bin Laden ally, Mullah Omar has been taken into custody. ….

At the end of March, US Military Intelligence was informed by US operatives working in the Af/Pak theater on behalf of the D.O.D. that Omar had been detained by Pakistani authorities. One would assume that this would be passed up the chain and that the Secretary of Defense would have been alerted immediately. From what I am hearing, that may not have been the case.

When this explosive information was quietly confirmed to United States Intelligence ten days ago by Pakistani authorities, it appeared to take the Defense Department by surprise.

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Meanwhile, Fox News quotes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as accusing Pakistan as recently as last weekend of knowing both Osama bin Ladin and Mullah Omar’s whereabouts and not telling.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused members of the Pakistani government over the weekend of practically harboring Usama bin Laden, raising questions about whether the U.S. is pushing hard enough on its presumed ally to give up the world’s most wanted terrorist.

Clinton leveled the charge in an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes.” She praised Pakistan for a “sea change” in its commitment in going after terrorists, but she added that she expects more cooperation.

“I’m not saying that they’re at the highest levels, but I believe that somewhere in this government are people who know where Usama bin Laden and Al Qaeda is, where Mullah Omar and the leadership of the Afghan Taliban is, and we expect more cooperation to help us bring to justice, capture or kill those who attacked us on 9/11,” she said.

But Brad Thor knew of the Clinton interview, and still seems convinced that he is better informed than Mrs. Clinton.

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