Mattis warns DoD against leaks in new memo
October 5, 2017
WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued a new warning Thursday to all military and Defense Department civilian personnel against information leaks, and directed personnel to report suspected leaks, guidance that government transparency advocates said would have a chilling effect on the public’s right to know.
In an internal memo dated Oct. 3 and obtained by the Military Times, Mattis reminded DoD personnel that “it is a violation of our oath to divulge, in any fashion, non-public DoD information, classified or unclassified, to anyone without the required security clearance as well as a specific need to know in the performance of their duties.”
Mattis also reinforced the obligation to report leaks.
“All hands must be alert to prevent unauthorized disclosure of non-public information for any reason, whether by implied acknowledgment or intentional release. Misconduct cannot be tolerated and suspected or confirmed disclosure must be reported at once,” Mattis wrote in the signed memo.
Transparency advocates warned that the memo could lead to increased government secrecy, because of the emphasis it also placed on not releasing non-public, but still unclassified DoD information.
Non-public, but unclassified DoD information can include documents such as internal memos, trip itineraries or administrative guidance that the Pentagon decides it does not want in the public realm, even if the information is not sensitive enough to classify.
That information is shielded by labeling it “sensitive but unclassified,” or “for official use only.” While not classified, those categories can result in government employees being disciplined for releasing the information, said Freedom of Information Act attorney Mark Zaid.
However, those categories are not well-defined, and create a gray area of what is releasable, said Liz Hempowicz, policy counsel for the Project on Government Oversight.
Defense officials said Mattis decided to release the memo after a series of incidents where leaks hampered operations, including the May 2017 release of the suspect’s name in the Manchester, England, concert attacks by other unnamed U.S. officials. In that instance, Britain temporarily ceased sharing intelligence due to the leak.
However, defense officials were not immediately able to name any military operations where leaks had put U.S. service members at risk.
“No single incident triggered this,” said Pentagon spokesman Army Maj. Audricia M. Harris.
Harris said the memo is not intended to have a broader chilling effect.
“The purpose of this memo is to reinforce behavior to protect information, which may put our most valued asset at risk,” Harris said. “This in no way prevents DoD from sharing information in a timely fashion with the public.”
Read entire article HERE.
Secretary Mattis is a hardline believer in maintaining classified information within the confines of places that require utmost care and caution. Thank Goodness. Hopefully there will be no more instances of “leaked by unnamed source” documents or people’s lives placed in danger because of a careless and irresponsible media.
The very core of military operations from day-to-day to top-level should be classified. While working at NEXCOM I knew even a hint of retail sales was classified except as management required. Why because some enterprising logistics people could put together a field operation that might harm or remove desperately needed supplies or figure out troop movements. Carry just that little portion further into more sophisticated realms of military and Pentagon decisions and it isn’t hard to understand how leaks could cost lives and defeat operations.
We have first-hand knowledge from MSM articles just how damaging irrationally motivated and often illegally obtained “unmasking” or leaks of information have been published. Those “leaks” have jeopardized not just our own efforts but have nearly destroyed international trust and relations. CIA operatives and others in the field have been eliminated or removed for safety because of such politically motivated media irresponsibility.
Whole operations have been compromised and fiascos have occurred all because some idiot decided for selfish reasons that information they were privy to either in random bits or in understanding of the whole “had every right to be publicly broadcast” before going through channels or under “whistleblower” protection protocol.
I do believe there are times and events that should stand out and be given priority but those should be done in such a way that not only the informant but the reporting agent have applied common sense, considered the legal precedents, taken appropriate precautionary steps, and considered future ramifications.
For many years but particularly the last eight years, classified information has found its way into public awareness by what some might consider heroes and others traitors. It is a thin line much like the one that borders between sanity and insanity. How to balance the rights of the public to know and the rights of those planning and carrying out operations will always be a tough call. However, the national interests and international interests should be first before public interest where lives and military operations can be compromised.
Secretary Mattis gets the difference. Most of military should already have been well aware and making every effort to strengthen understanding and train on the subject. Obviously though, after the last eight years of incompetence and illegal behavior, training has become lax and people have been allowed to get away with much more than they should have. Having seen a Secretary of State Clinton get away with much more than most is NOT helping either.