Commentary Magazine


Topic: United States government

Put Steven Aftergood in the Brig

The men and women who are defending our country, whether in the field or in the Pentagon, deserve our gratitude and respect. But sometimes the U.S. Army does things that are wrong, and sometimes it does things that are dumb.

In the latter category, consider its ham-fisted efforts to protect sensitive military information from disclosure to the enemy. Under the title “Operations Security” (OPSEC), the Army recently published an updated, 79-page, densely packed manual on the subject, replete with instructions like the following:

(a) Identification of critical information – determine what information needs protection.
(b) Analysis of threats – identify the adversaries and how they can collect information.
(c) Analysis of vulnerabilities – analyze what critical information friendly forces are exposing.
(d) Assessment of risk – assess what protective measures should be implemented.
(e) Application of appropriate OPSEC measures – countermeasures that protect critical information.

The OPSEC document itself contains a classification marking of “For Official Use Only” (FOUO) noting that it “contains technical or operational information” and that “Distribution is limited to U.S. Government agencies and their contractors.”

It also bears a “Destruction Notice,” instructing those who possess it to “destroy [it] by any method that will prevent disclosure of contents or reconstruction of the document.”

The trouble is that the OPSEC document is now widely available on the web. Published first by Wired News, it was then replicated by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), the Left-leaning advocacy group which runs a website that is one of the world’s best private repositories of documents pertaining to U.S. security and secrecy.

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The men and women who are defending our country, whether in the field or in the Pentagon, deserve our gratitude and respect. But sometimes the U.S. Army does things that are wrong, and sometimes it does things that are dumb.

In the latter category, consider its ham-fisted efforts to protect sensitive military information from disclosure to the enemy. Under the title “Operations Security” (OPSEC), the Army recently published an updated, 79-page, densely packed manual on the subject, replete with instructions like the following:

(a) Identification of critical information – determine what information needs protection.
(b) Analysis of threats – identify the adversaries and how they can collect information.
(c) Analysis of vulnerabilities – analyze what critical information friendly forces are exposing.
(d) Assessment of risk – assess what protective measures should be implemented.
(e) Application of appropriate OPSEC measures – countermeasures that protect critical information.

The OPSEC document itself contains a classification marking of “For Official Use Only” (FOUO) noting that it “contains technical or operational information” and that “Distribution is limited to U.S. Government agencies and their contractors.”

It also bears a “Destruction Notice,” instructing those who possess it to “destroy [it] by any method that will prevent disclosure of contents or reconstruction of the document.”

The trouble is that the OPSEC document is now widely available on the web. Published first by Wired News, it was then replicated by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), the Left-leaning advocacy group which runs a website that is one of the world’s best private repositories of documents pertaining to U.S. security and secrecy.

The Army has now demanded that FAS remove the document from circulation. “You have Army Publications hosted on your website illegally,” wrote Cheryl Clark of the Army Publishing Directorate, “There are only 5 Official Army Publications Sites. You are not one of them, you can link to our publications, but you cannot host them. . . . Please remove this publication immediately or further action will be taken.”

Steven Aftergood, who runs the FAS website, has refused to obey:

Dear Ms. Clark,

I have considered your request that we remove Army publications from the Federation of American Scientists website. For the reasons below, I have decided not to comply.

You indicate that we have posted Army documents “illegally.” That is not true. The posted documents are “works of the United States Government” under 17 U.S.C. 101. Such items cannot be copyrighted, as explained in 17 U.S.C. 105. Nor to my knowledge is there any other law that would prohibit posting of such documents on a public or private website.

You threaten unspecified “further action” if we do not comply with Army regulations governing distribution of records marked “For Official Use Only.” But the Federation of American Scientists, a non-governmental organization, is not a component of the U.S. Army and is not subject to internal Army regulations, including regulations on FOUO documents.

Accordingly, our publications are not illegal nor in violation of any applicable regulation.

I recognize that the Army has a legitimate interest in ensuring that its online publications are authentic and up to date. I have therefore added a disclaimer to our Army doctrine web page, indicating that ours is not an official U.S. Army website. I have also provided direct links to the five official websites.

http://www.fas.org/irp/doddir/army/index.html

I believe this addresses the substance of your concerns, if not the details.

Steven Aftergood

What will happen next? I do not know. But Aftergood, who is a thoughtful critic of government secrecy—he and I have debated issues of secrecy and government leaks in the pages of COMMENTARY—would seem to have the law on his side.

If the U.S. Army is serious about operational secrecy, it would do well to keep its secrets truly secret and not let them slip into the hands of the Federation of American Scientists. Trying to recall a secret once it is out only compounds whatever damage has been done. Even before the advent of the Internet, it was impossible to squeeze toothpaste back into the tube.

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Lord Hannay’s Defense

Last week I gave a lecture at the London School of Economics titled “What’s Wrong with the United Nations?” I was honored by the presence of Lord David Hannay, who served in the early 1990’s as the UK’s Permanent Representative to the UN. Lord Hannay is a smart and sophisticated man, and a friendly conversationalist. He also personifies the mindset of the UN.

In 2004, Kofi Annan, in the wake of the oil-for-food scandal and the Iraq war debate, undertook one of the UN’s most far-reaching reform initiatives by appointing a High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change. Lord Hannay was one of the panel’s few Western members. He and I had met once before, at a conference to evaluate the panel’s report. Where I was critical of the UN, Lord Hannay voiced the argument that the UN is nothing more than the sum of its member states and is used as a whipping boy by thoughtless critics.

This time, at a dinner following my talk, Lord Hannay took issue with an attack (similar to what I wrote in this recent post) I had made on the UN’s Human Rights Council. Hannay said that the Council’s singular chastisement of Israel was understandable in light of Israel’s use of cluster bombs in Lebanon last summer.

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Last week I gave a lecture at the London School of Economics titled “What’s Wrong with the United Nations?” I was honored by the presence of Lord David Hannay, who served in the early 1990’s as the UK’s Permanent Representative to the UN. Lord Hannay is a smart and sophisticated man, and a friendly conversationalist. He also personifies the mindset of the UN.

In 2004, Kofi Annan, in the wake of the oil-for-food scandal and the Iraq war debate, undertook one of the UN’s most far-reaching reform initiatives by appointing a High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change. Lord Hannay was one of the panel’s few Western members. He and I had met once before, at a conference to evaluate the panel’s report. Where I was critical of the UN, Lord Hannay voiced the argument that the UN is nothing more than the sum of its member states and is used as a whipping boy by thoughtless critics.

This time, at a dinner following my talk, Lord Hannay took issue with an attack (similar to what I wrote in this recent post) I had made on the UN’s Human Rights Council. Hannay said that the Council’s singular chastisement of Israel was understandable in light of Israel’s use of cluster bombs in Lebanon last summer.

Never mind that Israel’s actions in Lebanon were in response to a deadly attack on its territory and soldiers by a military force sworn to its destruction. Are Israel’s abuses, such as they are, more blameworthy than those of, say, Burma, Sudan, North Korea, Syria, Cuba, Zimbabwe, etc.? Is it possible that Lord Hannay believes that they are? More likely, he knows better, but suppresses common sense in order to defend the organization that he cherishes.

This impulse to protect the UN at all costs is just what led the body into its worst moments, and Lord Hannay, as it turns out, was in the thick of that. I refer to the UN’s refusal to lift a finger to stop genocide in Rwanda in 1994. The U.S., under President Clinton, was in the forefront of this disgraceful decision. But Lord Hannay stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States government.

Some UN peacekeepers were present in Rwanda when the slaughter began, and they pleaded for reinforcements. Instead, the opposite happened. As recalled by journalist Linda Melvern: “It was the British ambassador, Lord David Hannay, who first suggested to the council that the peacekeepers be withdrawn, and he had suggested ‘a token force’ to remain behind in Rwanda in order to ‘appease public opinion.’”

So much for Lord Hannay’s credentials on human rights. A decade later, when questioned by CNN about those events, Hannay pleaded ignorance. Reports by UN forces in the field saying that mass murder was imminent were “smothered,” he explained. “The Security Council was never told something appalling was going to happen. We were flying completely blind.”

Perhaps so. But who “smothered” the reports to which Lord Hannay was referring, the ones that were sent to UN headquarters in New York by General Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian who commanded UN forces in Rwanda? None other than the Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali; Kofi Annan, then the head of the UN department of peacekeeping; and Annan’s deputy, Iqbal Riza. They did so because they feared that the truth about Rwanda’s imminent genocide would lead UN member states to order actions that might fail and reflect poorly on the UN. Better to let events take their course. In short, Lord Hannay’s self-exoneration gives the lie to his own argument that the UN is nothing more than the sum of its parts.

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