America’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, revealed the name last week of a top secret, very small Al Qaeda cell operating inside Syria called the Khorasan Group. The revelation by Clapper was the latest in a series of seemingly authorized disclosures of highly sensitive national security information by the Executive Branch.
Khorasan Group isn’t a name that trips off the tongue. It isn’t sexy. It wasn’t appearing in newspapers and on websites every day. It wasn’t being talked about in Washington -- until now. That’s because its name and organization were classified information. The fact that you had, in all likelihood, never heard of Al Qaeda's Khorasan Group demonstrates the importance of the security placed around any information about this group and confusion in the White House about Al Qaeda.
As a former Operations Officer for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and an Army Ranger, I have risked my own life to provide this level of secure intelligence to our president and other policy makers.
Before classified information like this is shared with the public, officials need to weigh what is in the best interest of the citizens of America. They also need to consider whether making information public could endanger the safety of those who are gathering the details.
The one thing that shouldn’t be part of the decision to share classified information with the public is a consideration of what is politically expedient on the home front.
With Clapper’s latest revelation about the Khorasan Group, I can’t help but make a conclusion. It’s one I regret I’ve made too many times during the last six years of the Obama administration. Clapper’s disclosure about this group in no way furthers our national interests. In fact it hurts the security of the United States.
I know the hardships associated with collecting highly sensitive information. It pains me to see these kinds of revelations keep happening, over and over again.
I understand the impact that such revelations have on those who provide us with the information. It pains me, too, to see the way our intelligence services are negatively affected by unnecessary disclosures about sensitive information related to our national security.
Still, my optimism always seems to get the better of me. I keep hoping (and waiting) for President Obama and his advisers to understand how intelligence collection really works. To understand its uses.
I keep hoping they will learn about why it is so sensitive, why people literally die to provide us with it and why our brave men and women risk everything to ensure the president stays informed.
I have taken an oath not only to protect the United States but also to protect its information; in fact I have proudly taken both oaths many times over my career.
Yet, I keep watching helplessly as the self-destructive nature of the Obama administration continues to expose itself to the world.
Yes, the White House needs to work within a highly political world. Yes, it is engaged in a precarious balancing act between political backslapping and sharing information and the need to keep lips zipped. And yes, loose lips really do sink ships (a 20th Century adage that this administration has yet to learn from the Greatest Generation).
The World War II generation was one that knew war. They also knew how to end them. They knew, instinctively, that bragging about attacking an enemy, especially one that you have not previously mentioned in public, only serves to warn the enemy that you are on to them!
Poorly timed revelations of classified material simply undermine our methods of intelligence gathering because the enemy can often reconstruct how the information (especially with a small cell such as the Khorasan Group) was leaked and adds to the world-wide perception that America cannot keep a secret.
I am a protector of intelligence. I will take to my grave most of the things I have done in service to our nation.
My colleagues still in the field are waiting, waiting for the end of the classified disclosures from this White House. They are waiting for the day when their fears that the Obama administration will reveal their sources and methods comes to an end. They are waiting for this day because this White House keeps putting their lives, their family’s lives and the lives those of those they protect in jeopardy – all to achieve something that does not appear to have any national security objective.
Let me close with a word for our country’s leader: Mr. President, as commander in chief you are responsible to those whom you command. I humbly ask, on behalf of those who can’t ask for themselves, that you, in a classified environment share your strategic vision with your brave employees and explain to them how these disclosures contribute to it.
Joshua Katz, Managing Partner with The Enright Group, is a former Army Ranger and CIA Operations Officer. He has served as senior policy adviser to the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security. Follow him on Twitter@joshuakatz4.