When I read through the Washington Post yesterday, I stumbled across this Greg Jaffe article highlighting an odd bit of irony that just might get people killed. Jaffe’s article (which you really should read) notes that SecDef Gates and JCS Chief Mullen are trying to get the rest of the world to refrain from discussing facts, and from making speculation and SWAGs about the Osama bin Laden raid. Mullen and Gates know that the guys who would really like to avenge the death of bin Laden now know where the guys who killed OBL and the guys who flew the helicopters live and work.
The little bit of irony is that, in an E-Ring meeting last week, a couple of civilian political appointees in the Office of the Secretary of Defense complained to me that State had cut off the information pipeline to the Pentagon because of the Wikileaks disclosures attributed to Bradley Manning. So, a security screw up in the field costs Pentagon insiders political commentary from embassies, but a calculated political act puts field soldiers and sailors in harm’s way.
Now there are two big issues at play here. First, the OSD guys I met with certainly weren’t planning JSOC missions or designing counter-insurgency strategy, so their need-to-know quotient on State secrets is pretty low. But their complaints describe a retrenchment by the State Department, a return to the status quo ante of pre-9/11 bureaucracy standards rather than those of a less-stovepiped, better coordinated government that was the objective after 9/11.
And secondly, the release of 250,000 State Department cables through Wikileaks is a security nightmare and a significant diplomatic embarrassment for the U.S. But it is allegedly the act of one very troubled young man who took advantage of lax security standards in his SCIF. The informed, intentional release of information about the OBL raid is the act of elected officials who we must assume did so for calculated political gain. It’s either that or stupidity and I have to admit I don’t really like either option.