First came the deeply flawed summary of the Iran NIE. The more we learn about this document, the more it is becoming apparent that leaks and the fear of leaks are what drove the decision to make it public.
Then came news of the destruction of the CIA “torture videos,” showing the interrogations of ranking members of al Qaeda. CIA director Michael Hayden made public the information that the videos had been destroyed because he expected possible “misinterpretations of the facts in the days ahead.” In other words, he expected that news of the destruction of the videos was on the verge of being leaked.
Now that the information is on the public record, the CIA is under investigation, its leading counterterrorism operatives may face criminal charges, and the agency’s efforts to apprehend and interrogate determined enemies of the United have been thrust into disarray.
We are in the midst of a war in which intelligence is the crucial front. But much of what the U.S. government tries to do in the realm of secret intelligence is rapidly made un-secret. And much of what it contemplates doing it cannot do because of fear that its plans will be leaked.
Does it make sense to have what is supposed to be a clandestine intelligence agency like the CIA operating transparently, its sources and methods and secrets bare to the world? “Upon secrecy, success depends in most enterprises,” George Washington said two-hundred some years ago, “and for want of it, they are generally defeated.”
Are we setting ourselves up for defeat? What can be done about damaging leaks? Connecting the Dots has made some suggestions, but they have not been acted upon and there is no sign that they will be — or that anything (aside from the spectacles of the AIPAC and Scooter Libby prosecutions) is even being contemplated. When disaster strikes next, it will be too late.