Intelligence and Manning

“Intelligence saves blood and treasure.” William J. Casey, former CIA Director.

Bradley_Manning_US_Army-240x300-150x150Army Private FIrst Class Bradley Manning is a bad joke. Unfortunately, the joke is on him.

A long time ago, I was a serving naval officer, and subject to the same non-disclosure restraints as Manning was convicted of violating.

Technology has changed how information is collected, analyzed, promulgated, and stolen.  Forget John Walker photographing cryptological KEYMAT (keying material) cards to sell the the Russians. A tiny thumb drive can vacuum up gigabytes of classified documents in seconds.

Manning’s crimes are an order of magnitude and light years away from Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. War had just started to be televised in the late Sixties. Ellsberg did not release classified information willy-nilly across a global Internet. Editors from the New York Times and Washington Post were in an independent and responsible perch to determine what got published and what didn’t. It’s called journalism.  Wikileaks is not.

While past spies such as Walker, et al, released classified information for self enrichment, Manning appears to be incredibly naive. The FBI’s Robert Hanssen and the CIA’s Aldrich Ames compromised sensitive collection assets and methods. People died as a result. Walker compromised established cryptological systems, enabling Russian security organs to, in effect, read our mail.  There is no correlation.

While Manning was perhaps our most prolific leaker of late, he did not directly destroy our secure methods of communication or individual sources. That’s why he’ll spend at least the next several years at Ft. Leavenworth. I really doubt he’ll be there more than a decade, with time off for good behavior. The 35 year sentence is a “pour encourager les autres” (to encourage the others) warning to others. Walker, Ames, and Hanssen will never get out of the penitentiary at Allenwood other than toe-tagged and feet first.

You’ll notice, despite all the efforts by Israel and its lobby, that Jonathan Pollard is still behind bars.

Like the wars, or not, and I don’t, individuals entrusted with classified information do not have the freedom to release it. Intelligence is expensive, but not nearly as dear in human lives, as in not having the knowledge it provides.

The sheer volume of classified information is excessive, but Wikileaks is not the answer.  Our intelligence organizations have grown exponentially and privatized excessively over the past dozen years. We probably wouldn’t be able to bring it all back in-house if we wanted. That doesn’t mean we can’t ask ourselves some penetrating questions of how much and how we amass intelligence.  That is done in a controlled manner by cognizant government officials, not a naive junior enlisted soldier.

On the other hand, we do have Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-”Where’s Marcus”) on the House Intelligence Committee. Nobody said it had to make any sense.

Manning: “Idiot,” yes. “Hero,” no.