Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Leak, leak, leak - and kill the intel programs

One more example of how leaks by government officials, who have, in theory, some sort of responsibility to not give out classified information (especially relating to sources and methods) put a halt to a successful effort to monitor al Qaeda, spelled out at Jihad Watch: Intel agencies' bungling ruins SITE Institute's surveillance of Al-Qaeda network:
The founder of the company, the SITE Intelligence Group, says this premature disclosure tipped al-Qaeda to a security breach and destroyed a years-long surveillance operation that the company has used to intercept and pass along secret messages, videos and advance warnings of suicide bombings from the terrorist group's communications network.

"Techniques that took years to develop are now ineffective and worthless," said Rita Katz, the firm's 44-year-old founder, who has garnered wide attention by publicizing statements and videos from extremist chat rooms and Web sites, while attracting controversy over the secrecy of SITE's methodology. Her firm provides intelligence about terrorist groups to a wide range of paying clients, including private firms and military and intelligence agencies from the United States and several other countries.

Heads ought to be rolling...or have we given up prosecutions for violations of security rules?

Imagine the difference in WWII if the Japanese had learned through the pages of the NYT (for example) that we were reading their message traffic. Probably no Midway victory for the U.S....

Of course, there was the Chicago Tribune article after Midway. And an internal government leaker, too, as set out here:
A more serious leak arose inside the State Department. According to the Magic distribution scheme only the Secretary of State Cordell Hull was to receive the intercepts. Hull however, distributed copies to six of his top aides. One of whom shared the decrypts with four additional members in the Far Eastern Division. With so many copies to be distributed inside the State Department, multiple copies were mimeographed. Joseph Dugan was the man in charge of the mimeograph room and was a strict isolationist opposed to FDR. Dugan would discuss and even show the decrypts to a friend of his inside the State Department. Dugan’s friend however, was in the pay of Hans Thomsen, the German chargé ď' affaires in Washington and had conspired to fix the election in 1940. Thomsen reported to Berlin that the Americans had broken the Japanese code.

Remarkably, on May 6, Magic code breakers decrypted a message from Oshima in Berlin relaying Thomsen’s report of the broken code to Tokyo. Even more remarkable after a nonchalant investigation, the Japanese determined their code to be unbreakable and continued to use the broken code.
UPDATE: Left out the conclusion to the last part- that AQ does not suffer from the same conviction of invincibility that the Japanese did. And, thus, these leaks are very harmful.

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