Long term, cablegate will harm intel-sharing and US counter-terror efforts

As bloggers, foreign diplomats and freedom of information evangelists revel in what twitter invariably named #cablegate, concern should also be expressed for the long term consequences of the leak by a disillusioned US military officer.

As bloggers, foreign diplomats and freedom of information evangelists revel in what twitter invariably named #cablegate, concern should also be expressed for the long term consequences of the leak by a disillusioned US military officer.

This concern is different from the widespread worries about the damage Wikileaks will do to US diplomacy, military planning, covert operations or even human intelligence assets for the problem lies in the risk of the US government’s reaction to the incident and the danger it that poses to future internal information sharing within the US intelligence community.

The US intelligence community was blamed in the wake of 9/11 for failing to ‘connect the dots’ of terrorist plans and communications with the lack of internal intelligence sharing between the CIA, FBI and NSA in particular being cited by the 9/11 Commission as a core concern in the aftermath of the attacks.

Indeed, the Commission stressed:

“The need to restructure the intelligence community grows out of six problems that have become apparent before and after 9/11:

“Structural barriers to performing joint intelligence work. National intelligence is still organized around the collection disciplines of the home agencies, not the joint mission.

“The importance of integrated, all-source analysis cannot be overstated. Without it, it is not possible to ‘connect the dots’. No one component holds all the relevant information.”

As a result, the US government changed its systems and regulations on internal information sharing, moving towards a kind of intelligence library as recommended to the Bush Administration by former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft.

As The Guardian today reports, the result was the creation of:

“…a programme under which selected dispatches, considered moderately secret but suitable for sharing with other agencies, would be automatically loaded on to secure embassy websites, and linked with the military’s Siprnet internet system…

“More than 3 million US government personnel and soldiers, many extremely junior, are cleared to have potential access to this material, even though the cables contain the identities of foreign informants, often sensitive contacts in dictatorial regimes.”

Whilst few would argue that sharing this much information with this many personnel was wise, the risk is that pressure from Congress and/or the Administration itself will now push the intelligence community too far back in terms of compartmentalising information making the task of ‘connecting the dots’ – particularly in counter-terrorism – that much more difficult.

The Obama Administration would do well to heed the warning of former Bush Administartion Director of Central Intelligence General Michael Hayden who said in response to the earlier Wikileaks dump:

“…senior leadership in the country will have to guard against over-reaction.”

Guarding against that overreaction in the days and weeks ahead will be as difficult as it is necessary.

As you’re here, we have something to ask you. What we do here to deliver real news is more important than ever. But there’s a problem: we need readers like you to chip in to help us survive. We deliver progressive, independent media, that challenges the right’s hateful rhetoric. Together we can find the stories that get lost.

We’re not bankrolled by billionaire donors, but rely on readers chipping in whatever they can afford to protect our independence. What we do isn’t free, and we run on a shoestring. Can you help by chipping in as little as £1 a week to help us survive? Whatever you can donate, we’re so grateful - and we will ensure your money goes as far as possible to deliver hard-hitting news.

16 Responses to “Long term, cablegate will harm intel-sharing and US counter-terror efforts”

  1. Marcus A. Roberts

    RT @leftfootfwd: Long term, #cablegate will harm intel-sharing and US counter-terror efforts: http://bit.ly/eWUHs0 writes @MarcusARoberts

  2. Shamik Das

    Long term, #cablegate will harm intel-sharing and US counter-terror efforts: http://bit.ly/eWUHs0 writes @MarcusARoberts on @leftfootfwd

  3. The Green Benches

    This will cause tension on the streets of Riyadh and in that sense will cost lives. Nobody wins from leaks like these.

  4. Anon E Mouse

    Does anyone know who’s leaking this stuff? Seems pretty irresponsible to me…

  5. Marcus A. Roberts

    Green Benches: The Yemeni stuff is pretty worrying too.
    Anon E Mouse: the second link leads you here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1333982/WikiLeaks-US-Army-soldier-Bradley-Manning-prime-suspect-leaks-case.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

Comments are closed.