Impact of National Security Leaks

Member Group : Lincoln Institute

The national security leaks coming out of our intelligence agencies are mind-boggling. Almost without question, there are daily leaks of some of the most sensitive information.

In prior times, such as World War II slogans would be used like “loose lips sink ships” or “silence means security” and “Don’t discuss secrets on the telephone” to emphasize how critical security concerns are.

Security clearances are granted in the military after background checks. The levels of security include confidential, secret, and top-secret. Within the top-secret realm which requires an extensive background check costing over $100,000 per person, there are multiple levels of clearances. I have personally held most of those very high level of clearances.

Throughout our entire clearance process, we are required to be “read into” and “read out” of various programs. The President has the ultimate authority to determine if something is classified or declassified. At every step of the process, the servicemember or government employee is reminded of their responsibilities and the consequences of their actions.

I recall when I became the Executive Officer of a battalion one of my better officers talked to me about his career. In my discussion with him, he confided that he had been relieved (meaning fired) earlier in his career because he wrote the combination to the safe which contained classified documents on a scrap of paper he kept in his wallet. That was sufficient to get him fired and it should have been. It is that serious.

The laws governing violations of classified information include Title 18, U. S. Code Section 798 �" Disclosure of Classified Information states:

“a) Whoever knowingly and willfully communicates, furnishes, transmits, or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person, or publishes, or uses in any manner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States or for the benefit of any foreign government to the detriment of the United States any classified information�"

(1) concerning the nature, preparation, or use of any code, cipher, or cryptographic system of the United States or any foreign government; or
(2) concerning the design, construction, use, maintenance, or repair of any device, apparatus, or appliance used or prepared or planned for use by the United States or any foreign government for cryptographic or communication intelligence purposes; or
(3) concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States or any foreign government; or
(4) obtained by the processes of communication intelligence from the communications of any foreign government, knowing the same to have been obtained by such processes�"

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.”

There are well-known leaks such as Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden, Aldrich Ames, but there are the more destructive agents better known as “unnamed sources”.

The “unnamed sources” are releasing classified information as well as the methods of gathering that information that are potentially the most damaging release of classified information in our nation’s history. These techniques and abilities of our clandestine intelligence services are the most highly guarded secrets in our nation’s arsenal.

President Obama set the tone for the lack of concern of national security when he pardoned Bradley now Chelsea Manning after having Manning serve only a fraction of the prison sentence. It helped set the tone that violation of national security protocols were no big deal. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Obama’s release of Manning was perhaps as damaging to our nation as what Manning did to the national security.

Then there is the Comey matter! Surreal at best.

There are protocols in place within the national intelligence community should an agent feel that their superiors are acting in a way that is not either legal or properly sanctioned. Both the House and the Senate have an intelligence committee in which members are cleared to receive such information. There are offices of Inspector General in every agency which provides similar whistleblower protection.

These protocols did not always exist before but were established to protect those who serve in the clandestine services from out of control superiors. We now have a system where the system itself is out of control and now must also be reined in.

Never before the Obama administration did political appointees exercise such influence over the hiring of agents and intelligence personnel as Obama did. The agencies have become absolutely riddled with political operatives with a political agenda versus a national security agenda.

Never before the Obama administration did agents feel that political ideology overruled their jobs.

These national security leaks must all be dealt with. Forensic experts outside of the government must identify the leakers and they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for the violations that they have committed.

Comey’s investigation of Hillary Clinton was a joke. The dealings with the most recent security leaks is abysmal. The “unconfirmed sources”are a problem and must be identified and prosecuted.

As a retired Marine reserve Colonel who spent a great deal of time in my career with a top secret security clearance, I know firsthand the damage that the release of this information can do. This release of information does kill people.

Perhaps if the children of those who are leaking the information faced the risk to their children serving in the military and depending upon absolute secrecy then perhaps they would think twice about committing such horrible acts of treason against their own nation.

“Unconfirmed sources” is a euphemism for treasonous behavior!

Col. Frank Ryan, CPA, USMCR (Ret) represents the 101st District in the PA House of Representatives. He is a retired Marine Reserve Colonel and served in Iraq and briefly in Afghanistan and specializes in corporate restructuring. He has served on numerous boards of publicly traded and non-profit organizations. He can be reached at [email protected].