Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Brian Fairchild on Wikileaks

Our friend the counterterrorism expert Brian Fairchild has an interesting article today at Pajamas Media on the Wikileaks debacle. Mr. Fairchild points out that bad as the Wikileaks were, U.S. Government policy may be making the problem worse. He starts with an obvious point:

"I will guarantee that in the near future you will see some of these secret cables prominently referred to on al-Qaeda videos and displayed in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s new Inspire magazine, and they will be exploited by Salafi-Jihadi mosques and organizations throughout the world for some time to come."

But then he points out that the release neccesitates a new approach by our intelligence agencies:

"In an ironic twist, these publicly available classified cables, once considered compartmented information that could only be shared with other American officials on a strict “need to know” basis, must now be considered a key American counterterrorism resource.

This is true because a standing counterintelligence requirement in the ongoing analysis of al-Qaeda is to understand what it knows about us and how that knowledge might enable it to protect itself from our operations, support its ideological narrative, and help it choose targets.

As unpleasant as it is, these cables, while still officially classified, are now completely and utterly in the public domain and are being studied by our key adversaries. As a result, it is vital that our own counterterrorism institutions and officers conduct a robust damage assessment by reviewing these cables through the enemy’s eyes, if only to be forewarned about what our enemies know about us and how they might utilize this knowledge to their advantage."

And he says that this reality is not being accepted, at least publicly, by our government:

"Unfortunately, just the opposite appears to be true. On December 4, the Office of Management and Budget circulated a memo to all federal agencies prohibiting them from accessing the Wikileaks material, and the Defense Department issued a similar statement to its contractors and employees.

The OMB memo stated:

Except as authorized by their agencies and pursuant to agency procedures, federal employees or contractors shall not, while using computers or other devices (such as Blackberries or Smart Phones) that access the web on non-classified government systems, access documents that are marked classified (including classified documents publicly available on the WikiLeaks and other websites)…

This prohibition not only takes all federal counterterrorism personnel out of the loop, but, by extension, all state and local police counterterrorism personnel too...."

You can learn more at the Intrepid Group website, and you can listen to Mr. Fairchild's interview "Salafism: Understanding a Strain of Radical Islam" on "Reclaiming the Culture."

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