When the arrest was announced in mid-January, it was accompanied by even more sobering news. The one-time US intelligence officer, a trusted employee of the CIA had revealed to the Chinese government a list of informants within that country. These were people without any sort of diplomatic immunity. Within a week, American analysts had been able to count up some of the casualties. The Chinese dictatorship had arrested and executed at least 20 people as a direct result of that leak.
And it got worse. Investigators believe the Chinese then shared information with the regime of Vladimir Putin. New information about US methods and technological capabilities have already led to arrests and executions in Russia.
The list of the dead will grow.
The actual number of executions will probably remain murky, hidden well into the future. Intelligence agencies are cautious about such matters. Releasing the names, and even the numbers, would allow a bit of reverse engineering, giving opposing analysts a new starting point. If we know you have that numerical information, we will know that you were able to obtain it, and we may be able to figure out how. And if we are the Chinese government or the Putin regime, we will have a deterrent you in the United States will not. We can summarily hold secret executions. And we will.
It is unknown, and unknowable, how many US assets were caught and killed in the mid-1970s after CIA employee Philip Agee published the names of 250 secret employees. Only a few killings were documented, the names of the victims released. A few years later he went on to publish 2000 more names.
Getting people killed does not always require releasing their names. Information can often be gleaned out of secondary data.
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was recently asked how agencies use Social Media.
Well it’s, uh, it’s huge. That was when the Russians moved into Ukraine. That was a crucial piece of source of intelligence for us. You know, all soldiers are alike. They’ve got to take pictures and send them home to mom and their girlfriends. Well, Russian soldiers are the same way. And if they stand in front of things you get intelligence for that. So it’s hugely important.
Occasionally, seemingly unrelated information can lead to important finds.
Julian Assange of WikiLeaks fame illustrated how interconnected information can lead to bigger things. When a batch of over 91,000 documents about the US in Afghanistan were released, the names of local people were blacked out. But identifying information was not. A huge spike in executions of civilians followed a few weeks later. When almost 400,000 similar documents were release about Iraq, Assange did not even bother trying to protect anyone. The names themselves were published.
Anyone who had noticed and reported a bomb to authorities was suddenly publicized. Names were released of anyone who had overheard and reported talk about some terrorist plot. The numerical evidence alone suggests that large numbers of people were killed as a result.
Senator John Warner is no neophyte when it comes to National Security. He had been chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and had served on committees and subcommittees concerning Homeland Security, Intelligence, Sea Power, Emerging Threats and Capabilities, Preparedness … the list went on and on. Before he ran for the Senate, he had been Under Secretary of the Navy under President Nixon, then Secretary of the Navy. President Ford had him negotiate treaties on military power at sea. This is a fellow whose cuff links would jump to attention at military parades. He knows as much as anyone about national security.
It seemed like kind of big deal when former Senator John Warner decided to endorse Hillary Clinton for President. He was nominally for Clinton, but everyone pretty much knew he simply could not countenance the idea of Donald Trump as President. He regarded Donald Trump as a loud mouth who cannot keep from blurting national secrets.
I shake my head but I remember back, Admiral, in boot camp in the winter of 1945 when Iwo Jima was going on, big battles in Europe, the Battle of the Bulge to defend. They drilled into us seventeen, eighteen year old kids, day after day! There was a placard on the wall. It simply said “Loose! Lips! Sink! Ships!”
Got that, Trump?
Loose. Lips. Sink. Ships.
Former Senator John Warner September 28, 2016
Donald Trump lives in a world that revolves largely, but not exclusively, around demonstrations of wealth, and the power that comes from wealth.
He has spent most of his life excluded from polite company in that world. He could, and did, brag about money, but he has always been crude and stupid, and a refined sense of class goes a long way in that world.
But now, he is the President of the United States. And he can rightfully boast about power that dwarfs that of anyone, anyone at all, that he is likely to meet. He is the one man, the single individual, the only one, who can blow up the world.
As he assumed office, intelligence officials and international specialists begged him to hold off on talking to foreign dignitaries until he could be briefed. They did not want him to accidentally make promises or otherwise disturb valuable relationships on which alliances depended. At least until he knew what was at stake.
He brushed off that advice, taking calls from pretty much anyone he considered important. There was no use having more power than anyone without brandishing it in the company of people who only recently would not acknowledged his existence. He was arriving, and he did not want that arrival to be delayed.
When he invited Russia’s highest-ranking spy in the United States, Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, to the Oval office, it was a great opportunity: in fact, an opportunity he could not afford to let go by. He could impress with his new position this very important, very powerful, representative of everything that had been denied him in his life. It was predictable that the discussion would turn to information.
“We have the best intelligence,” he is quoted as having said to his Russian visitors. And he gave details of that high level intelligence to his enthralled guests.
He talked about the technology ISIL had developed, how we were about to meet that new technology. He named locations and methods. The Ambassador was indeed impressed.
Deeply impressed. Deeply.
Experts say the President gave up information that was so highly classified, it was off the scale. Russians could easily tell the information came from Israel. The location isolated the city and the organization. They could tell it was human intelligence, that it came from a spy. They could tell Israel had a well-placed spy in what the United States considers a terrorist group. The likelihood was that Russia had a friendly relationship with several countries who were, in turn, friendly with that organization in that location.
In fact, Israel had provided the intelligence to the US with the specific understanding that it would not be shared with Russia.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defends our President, but intelligence officers in Israel’s spy organizations are reportedly outraged. There is no official word on whether their agent survived. If he did, it was because he was pulled out before he was killed. In any event, his cover was blown and his usefulness in that role is gone.
As word spread of the security breach, the President was bewildered and indignant. He had violated no trust. He had betrayed no secrets. He had not even mentioned the country who provided the high level intelligence.
Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name “Israel.” Never mentioned it, in that conversation. They were all saying I did. So you had another story wrong. Never mentioned the word “Israel.”
Variations of the incident have been repeated several times in the year since. Donald Trump tweets information by cell phone that his United Nations Ambassador refuses to repeat because it is top secret. His staff cringes at each airport landing in a foreign country. They cannot tell what he will impulsively reveal. They do know that once he starts, he cannot stop himself.
We are not at war, we will lose no ships. But terrorists pay attention to information. They close encampments. They change tactics. They end the lives of those they suspect.
Loose lips don’t sink ships.
Loose lips get people killed.
But President Trump never uttered the word “Israel”.
So it’s completely okay.
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