The continued reckless behavior by people in our intelligence community and in sensitive security positions concerns me greatly.
To begin, let's go back a couple of years, when U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning was arrested and accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of restricted and classified documents to the WikiLeaks website, resulting in a diplomatic boondoggle that some blame in part for the deadly Arab Spring and for compromising the safety of our servicemen and women.
First and foremost, Manning's duty to his country and fellow servicemen apparently didn't mean that much to him. More importantly -- and I wasn't in the military, so maybe some of you who were can enlighten me on how common this is -- but what was a mere private doing with a clearance that not only allowed him access to this much sensitive data but also the ability to download it without some sort of approval from a superior? Some of his alleged crimes carry capital sentences, but the prosecutors aren't going that route, which may explain why this kind of misconduct isn't taken more seriously.
From the military, let's take a step over to the Secret Service, the branch of law enforcement entrusted with the security of the president. Not only was the security detail embroiled in scandal when a disgruntled Colombian prostitute exposed agents' sex party (a party they had when they were supposed to be preparing for a presidential visit the next day), but just last month another agent was found passed out drunk on a street corner in Miami.
At the very least, I would think that being hungover would be way up there on the list of things Secret Service agents should not do the day of a presidential visit, especially in a country like Colombia, where kidnapping and guerilla warfare are among the national pastimes. Opening yourself to blackmail by paying prostitutes (or not paying them, as in this case) also seems like a terrible idea for people in charge of keeping our president safe.
From the Secret Service back to the military, this time the Navy, specifically the SEALs: When I heard that the SEALs had ended Osama bin Laden's tenure on this Earth, I assumed I would never know the details of the operation. I foolishly assumed that our super-secret commandos would just follow the rules of clandestine operations and national security and keep their mouths shut. But no, one of them wrote a book about it, one the Pentagon is investigating for violating the SEALs' non-disclosure agreement.
While we're talking about the SEALs, a number of them -- including some from SEAL Team 6 -- were reprimanded recently for violating the same agreement. Their offense? Showing off some of their classified gear to a video game maker.
Apparently the adventure and thriller novels I read are wrong. The behind-the-scenes operatives don't go to the grave with their secrets. As for our enemies, forget torture. A book advance or a chance to be on an Xbox game is apparently all it takes to get some of our commandos to talk.
Finally, we scoot over to the Central Intelligence Agency for the scandal du jour, the David Petraeus sex scandal. The former general and CIA leader tendered his resignation last week amid revelations that he had an affair with his biographer. Not content to let the CIA have all the fun, the FBI agent initially in charge of the investigation apparently sent shirtless photos of himself to one of the women involved in the scandal.
One would think that on the first page of the spy-chief handbook would be something like "Don't engage in extramarital affairs, lest you open yourself up to blackmail by foreign agents."
Or something like that. The FBI manual should have a similar entry about not participating in the scandal you're investigating. Then again, it seems like that would be obvious.
People who work in intelligence and other such sensitive positions are supposed to understand the requirements of secrecy and security. National security and people's lives depend on them doing their jobs, and the nature of their jobs requires they be held to a higher standard. Which begs a question.
Why aren't they?
Email Nate McCullough at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Fridays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/natemccullough.