Small Wars Journal

Paranoia or Security?

U.S. Tells Agencies: Watch 'Insiders' to Prevent New WikiLeaks by Michael Isikoff of NBC News. Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists says the new Office of Management and Budget security memo is "... paranoia, not security..." BLUF: Don't frown at work and for you retired bubbas, someone is watching you.



Sun, 01/23/2011 - 6:09pm

Steven Aftergood has been great on this matter.

He's noted the net effect of the Wikileaks episode has essentially put "a kind of evolutionary pressure" on the US government -- because Wikileaks has greater success acquiring information from government agencies with lax security, like the military services, versus those with robust protocols, like the intelligence community, the government will respond to the breach by make the Army more like the CIA.

And by failing to understand Mr. Assanges intentions (not transparency, but the government's collapse), the American government is unwittingly playing into his hands by having government agencies to emulate the CIA.

As Robert Jervis of Columbia University demonstrates in his latest book, Why Intelligence Fails, emulating the CIA would be counterproductive. CIA has had successes and failures, but even with reforms, truly improved intelligence would actually be less determinate and more qualified in its conclusions.

More critically, Jervis asserts "better intelligence would not have led to an effective policy," an argument he acknowledges is "psychologically disturbing and politically unacceptable" because improved intelligence would entail greater uncertainty than is currently appreciated and would shift the responsibility for future failures to the elected political leadership.

In short, by seeking to apply information security policies practiced by the intelligence community, the US government will become more insular, beginning the vicious circle desired by Mr. Assange. (See Berkeley blogger Aaron Bady, who's written how Mr. Assange believes the American government constitutes a conspiracy and to emasculate it, one has to corrupt the sources of information on which it relies. By releasing the sequestered information, Mr. Assange expects a conspiracy to respond by limiting flows of information in and out of its domain. If Mr. Assange and Wikileaks can successfully leak more information, then the conspiracy's suspicions will rise as its confidence declines in existing information, leading the conspiracy to place even more restrictions on information flows. Inevitably, the conspiracy collapses as it has less and less access to reliable information and becomes incapable of responding to changing conditions.)

Let's hope present leadership is informed.