Should the public know anything about covert affairs?

What an amazing time to be starting a blog about the Intelligence world!  As many of you may know, there have been an unprecedented amount of leaks about operations in the past year.  Unlike when Valerie Plame’s name was released to get attention away from the Bush Administration’s mistakes in Iraq, now the leaks seem to be occurring to make some in the Obama Administration look good. Either reason is wrong.

Intelligence work requires secrecy.  Otherwise we wouldn’t need it to support our policies, our lifestyle, our beliefs and our lives.  We would just be able to read the Internet and know everything.  Although, many would love a world without espionage, it is unlikely that will happen anytime soon. So we need to make certain the U.S. has a strong, reliable espionage service that protects all of us. This cannot happen with leaks.  Not only do leaks harm our sources and methods, it also weakens the relationships we have with our allies.

A wonderful doctor who cared enough for his country of Pakistan that he wanted to help capture or kill Osama Bin Laden is now serving jail time in Pakistan. The Pakistanis found out through the U.S.’s detailed leaks of the operation that the doctor was helping the U.S.  Whoever decided to give the American public all the details of the operation is directly — in my opinion — responsible for this man’s incarceration.  We should have insisted he and his family get out if we couldn’t keep the methods of the operation secret.

And here’s another: The man in Yemen who discovered the plot against U.S. airlines has gone into witness protection with his family. U.S. taxpayers are paying his protection because the operation details were leaked along with the fact that a Saudi double agent worked for both sides. Why did we need to know that?  The only thing that should have been told, if anything, was that with another country’s assistance we stopped a bomb threat.

We also don’t need to know the details about our cyber warfare against the state of Iran.  I am thrilled that we are doing it, but none of us need to know for a fact that we are doing it and for how long.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the Chairs of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, have joined forces to insist the FBI investigates the leaks and to pursue legal action against the perpetrators.  If, at the very least, it makes future leaks less likely because the bipartisan team has said it must stop, they have accomplished more in D.C. this year than anyone.  Perhaps their example can spur others on in our political world to work together on the major issues we face. The correct answer may be for the Administration to ask for an Independent Prosecutor to investigate the leaks.

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