| Category: Military
| Posted at: Monday, 29 November 2010
1. I work with classified information every single day. Most of what I see that is classified SECRET is overclassified. Very little of it is even surprising. The loss of a small percentage of it would cause grave danger to individuals or the nation as a whole. At the TOP SECRET level there are more real secrets. At the TOP SECRET/SCI level there are a lot. The Wikileaks leaks are SECRET items. As far as leaks go: it could be a lot worse.
2. The same physical vulnerabilities that exist at the SECRET level exist at the TS/SCI level. Most such data is electronically archived and accessed. It can be copied relatively easily and passed to wikileaks.com or worse. The only difference is that at the higher classification levels, there are fewer people with access.
3. This is really the same problem that has long confronted recording artists, the motion picture industry, and other creators of intellectual content: electronic data is easily copied, easily shared, and not easily restricted to paying customers or rightful recipients. The RCIA and MPA have had more than a decade to formulate new business models to the threat of file sharing . . . with varying degrees of success. The federal government is late to recognizing this as a problem, but has the advantage of being able to quickly learn from those who came first.
4. My third biggest concern is not Russian or Chinese infiltrators, but American saboteurs.
5. My second biggest concern is not that American secrets could be stolen surreptitiously, and whose loss is unbeknownst to us, but that they could be taken and posted in plain view.
6. But my biggest concern of all is that the government overreacts by restricting sharing and access to only a limited few. As I said, I work with classified information every day. One of the lessons learned from 9-11 was that information that was known by some was not shared with others who could do something with it. We’ve made great strides. Still, almost a decade later, just today, I ran again into that very problem. With access to information that another agency has, I might be able to help Soldiers on the ground in an active theater. Were it prior to the Wikileaks fiasco, I would have no doubt that I would be able to eventually get access to that data and be able to do a better job helping to save lives. My biggest fear now is that the boundaries between agencies will be built anew.
7. If we can’t share intelligence, we might as well not gather it.
At the risk of sounding like a heartless bastard, why is the US Navy going to the rescue of a foreign-flagged cruise ship that is not in danger?
Some have argued that since Carnival Cruise Lines is paying for the food, that it’s okay. That, however, doesn’t nearly replace the value of the training time that the USS Ronald Reagan might lose by being diverted to this mission. Not to mention, an aircraft carrier is hardly the economic choice to deliver a mere 5 tons of food. If it has to be a naval vessel, why not the USS Rentz, a guided missile frigate within the Reagan’s carrier group? Its two helicopters are each capable of lifting about 4 tons per sortie.
But there’s a larger issue at stake: The United States Navy has taken on the task of protecting the world’s oceans–but to whose benefit? And at whose cost? The Carnival Splendor is a Panamanian-flagged ship. So let the Panamanian Navy come their rescue.
Today, ships bearing a flag of convenience carry most of the world’s cargo and passengers. That’s true even when the shipping lines’ owners are based in the United States. In this case, Miami-based Carnival Cruise Lines operates the Splendor for weekly cruises out of the Port of Los Angeles. There’s nothing at all Panamanian about Carnival.
The flag a ship sailed under once meant something. It symbolized that the full weight of the nation was behind that vessel. Woe be to those who might attack it. Nowadays the flag means nothing but the opportunity to pay a lower tax rate. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, per se, but when a ship finds itself under attack by pirates or in distress at sea, the flagging country–often Liberia, the Marshall Islands, the Bahamas, or Panama–doesn’t offer much in the way of support. They don’t have to: the ships’ owners know that the US Navy will come to the rescue.
The American taxpayer now bears the full brunt of the world’s shipping. Cruise operators and shipping lines pay nothing for the privilege of American naval protection. Not to mention, offloading this cost means that the US indirectly subsidizes the producers of foreign goods.
This has to stop. It was only a couple generations ago that the globe’s two greatest naval powers–the US and Britain–also flagged a large number of the world’s ships. The costs those commercial operators paid for the privilege, in turn, helped to fund the navies that protected their voyages. It wasn’t a tax, it was a fee for service.
Since then, the US has required of US-flagged ships some silly rules that have nothing to do with safety–like regulating that the ships’ crews be unionized. That should be overturned. But the privilege of American naval protection comes at a cost–a cost not borne by those currently benefitting from that protection. It’s time to make the world pay for the world’s shipping costs. If a ship’s owners want the US Navy to protect their voyages, they need to pay the US Navy’s price.