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November 29, 2010

Three Million People Have Access To Data Manning Leaked?

Captain Ed plucks out this telling detail from a Guardian report:

More than 3 million US government personnel and soldiers, many extremely junior, are cleared to have potential access to this material, even though the cables contain the identities of foreign informants, often sensitive contacts in dictatorial regimes. Some are marked "protect" or "strictly protect".


Asked why such sensitive material was posted on a network accessible to thousands of government employees, the state department spokesman told the Guardian: "The 9/11 attacks and their aftermath revealed gaps in intra-governmental information sharing. Since the attacks of 9/11, the US government has taken significant steps to facilitate information sharing. These efforts were focused on giving diplomatic, military, law enforcement and intelligence specialists quicker and easier access to more data to more effectively do their jobs."

This seems crazy, but the government really only has two options: Either be overly restrictive with sensitive information, denying important information out of bureaucratic inertia to people who could use it for good purposes, or be overly free with sensitive information, putting it into the hands of any jackass with a Lada Gaga CD-RW and a grudge.

The obvious answer -- redact everything proper and set up rational and effective protocols about who can see precisely what and for what reasons -- really isn't an answer. All that evaluation of what's too sensitive to be shared takes human intelligence, and an awful lot of it, a lot of people making a lot of decisions which then have to be approved by their supervisors. That regime leads to pretty much everything being classified and not shared, which was the default status of this all before 9/11, because if you're a lower-level bureaucrat tasked with such a routine, repetitive task, the safest move you can make, in terms of your career and CYA-ism, is just to mark everything as Tip-Top Secret.

On top of that, the huge number of people thus required to process all this information and choose the appropriate classification levels and need-to-know protocols becomes the next big security risk, since each of these people could leak their little treasure trove, if they wanted. And they would all be sort of low-level, marginal sort of employees, not professional spymasters, because do you want your top professional spy-guys out collecting and analyzing information or do you want them sitting in a cubicle in a huge room making routine classification decisions?

The only way this can work is if each person who sends a report creates three or four different versions of the same report. The first, the unexpurgated version, only for higher ups; the alternate versions, one scrubbed and one seriously scrubbed. Each person would be responsible then for classifying and redacting his own report, which makes sense, 1, because it's pretty easy to scrub your own report (and takes about five or ten minutes of additional work) and 2, because the person writing the report is in the best position to judge what's truly sensitive and what can be freely disseminated.

The raw versions of the reports wouldn't even be digitally accessible. Only someone specifically asking for the raw version would get it, and only after whoever is entrusted with that version decides the person asking needs the information.

It also makes sense because then you don't have a huge bureaucracy of low-level people making these decisions, but the professionals who collect information making a decision they're uniquely qualified to make.

This probably seems pretty obvious, like duh, so obvious I'm a little worried that a spy-type is going to say in the comments Ace you cloth-eared dunce that's precisely what we do!, but I don't think people are doing that-- because if they were, only the scrubbed version of these reports should have been accessible by Private Manning, by and large (allowing for the occasional slip-up), and obviously that's not the case.

Could it be this easy? Am I missing something?

Oh: And hi again! I've missed you.

digg this
posted by Ace at 12:13 PM

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