Thursday, November 1, 2012

The rank hypocrisy of veterans on OPSEC

I've written on these pages before about questioning the expertise of anyone claiming to have expertise and that arguments should be weighed as they stand. Most recently, I hit on IAVA for talking about civ-mil relations in a way that exceeded their understanding of it. But that sin is much less than those of groups who intentionally mislead the public through their own hypocrisy. Specifically, political veterans from the very right on OPSEC.

I don't think I need to go into a lot of detail - most of you know the background. This past summer the right end of the veteran (and non-veteran) blogosphere blew up with allegations against the President (and his administration) of leaking classified information about the SEAL raid to kill bin Laden for political gain. They didn't just get frothy-mouthed about this issue (of which they had some standing before they lost their reasoning faculties), they got active with at least one Super PAC started by a former Navy SEAL dedicated to OPSEC alone.

Fast forward a few months and the change in their position on OPSEC is so radical that it makes my head spin. Take the milblog This Ain't Hell - a staunchly conservative, veteran group blog that I occasionally visit for their amusing (if too serious) "stolen valor" posts. In primary contributor Jonn Lilyea's 11 June 2012 post, "Sanger defends Administration leaks", Lilyea says:
How about we let our secrets remain that way until whichever war we're fighting ends, so we don't intentionally get mired in the morass that the media made of this last war with their "open debate". ... And how about someone put a muzzle on the leaks out of the Obama Administration and let them debate the issues instead of smokescreening their failures.
Pretty straightforward position: secrets are secrets and should stay that way while the secrets affect current operations. But when it comes to Benghazi the tone changes. Lilyea posits today, in a post that quotes a report drawn from an "uncovered" Secret cable, "Who knows what other information they're sitting on today that will blow up in our faces and cost more American lives later." Again, this classified cable that affects current operations coming to light isn't an OPSEC violation, it's "uncovered". Blatant, reeking hypocrisy.

The previously-mentioned Special Ops OPSEC Super PAC does not even hide their hypocrisy on OPSEC. In a press release from 17 October 2012, the OPSEC president said:
President Obama wanted credit after our military killed bin Laden. Highly classified secrets were leaked, endangering real heroes and their families. But when terrorists killed SEALs and diplomats in Libya, this administration does not tell the truth about what happened.
In summation, this Super PAC was started because the President leaked classified info about something he shouldn't have leaked because it relates to ongoing operations. But the President is at fault because he doesn't leak classified info that relates to ongoing operations. Don't think about it too long or it will hurt your brain.

This hypocrisy isn't limited to fringe blogs (admittedly with more hits than this humble blog, but I'd rather be thoughtful than popular) or fringe political groups. A fringe blogger at a mainstream newspaper, Jennifer Rubin, supports hitting the President on the bin Laden leaks in a July post, positively quoting Governor Romney at the VFW, before accusing the President of "stonewalling" yesterday for not disclosing information that is rightly classified. I'm less concerned about Rubin as she's a pure political hack, but the point is that pure political hacks are taking their cues from veterans-cum-hacks because of the latters' perceived expertise.

These veterans and their hypocrisy is irritating at the least and dangerous at the worst. Because our veteran population is so small and our national defense so complicated, the general public looks to those few veterans who speak up to help explain how varied aspects of our national defense work. But the most vocal veterans on the issue of OPSEC, at least in volume, has been those who bathe in the fetid waters of hypocrisy. Their domestic political concerns are skewing how they present defense issues to the public, causing them to mislead the American public into believing the President is wrong for both leaking classified information and for not leaking classified information. And the American people don't know to juxtapose these two issues and see the hypocrisy of it all, even if there was some substance to the crux of their original position (minus the whole "Obama is a traitor" nonsense).

Obviously free-thinking people should always examine any argument for fallacies or validity, but too often we allow related experience to substitute for expertise. As my IAVA post made clear, being a veteran in and of itself does not make a veteran an expert on anything beyond his or her own experiences. Keep that in mind as you read through political discourse in the waning days of the presidential campaign.


  1. Do you want to discuss this with me? Or is it better that you just take shots at me behind my back? You send the link to other milbloggers, but not me? Welcome to obscurity.

    1. I'm not sure how publicly posting this and putting it on twitter is taking shots at you behind your back. But by all means, please continue to be annoyed at a perceived slight instead of addressing the hypocrisy I highlighted here.

      You and other bloggers were right that the Administration shouldn't have leaked info about Abbottabad, even if I wouldn't have used the same language. Why should the Administration release classified information now about Benghazi? Why wouldn't that be wrong now? Why is okay for you to propagate information gleaned from a classified cable? Goose, gander, etc.

    2. Well, I never heard of your little blog before someone sent me a link today, so how would I know you were writing about me? You took the time to send a link to another milblogger, but you neglected to include me in the discussion. This is a blatant attempt to garner traffic and it failed.

      What you took totally out of context was the fact that this administration knew there were threats to the consulate, that people at the consulate felt vulnerable and this administration did nothing to protect them. I'm not calling for them to release any secret information, I'm asking that they take appropriate action when there's a perceived threat. You act like I'm releasing classified information myself. I would lose my job if I did that. You took the whole post out of context so you could call me names hoping that I would send my hordes. And since when is Jennifer Rubin a veteran?

      So go back to your one post/week uninformed rants. When you have something to say to me, say it. To. Me.

    3. Jonn, there is no context necessary. The cable was classified. It was leaked. You describe it as "uncovered" because, and I'm just guessing here, someone you agree with leaked it. Which is a very different stance from the one you had just a few months ago when it was the guys you don't like leaking the information. What the classified information entails is absolutely irrelevant and as a veteran you should know that. Whether you think it should be classified or not does not negate the fact that it is classified and the dissemination of it is illegal (I'm talking about the leaker here, not you).

      I, too, am concerned about what happened and agree that if it shows that they should have acted and didn't, then someone needs to pay for that. But that doesn't substantiate selective approval of leaked information. So your accusation of "uninformed" is a bit off. I support the law and protection of classified information. You support it selectively as evidenced by your failure to rightfully condemn Fox News for doing exactly what the Obama Admin was up to this summer, which you were vociferously against.

      And I didn't say Rubin was a veteran. In fact I pointed out that she wasn't in the post.

  2. So why did you say "veterans" in the title of the post, but you only mention me? Where did I say that I supported the release of supposedly classified information? I don't know how Herridge got it, neither do you. So I fail to see where you have a legitimate beef with me. No you're not concerned that people were killed as a result of this administration's incompetence and their failures. You're more concerned that I didn't condemn the release of the supposedly classified document.

    1. Firstly, you weren't - I hit on the Spec Ops OPSEC folks, too.

      My beef is that you and others were so, so angry that the White House leaked classified information for political reasons. You weren't wrong. But as soon as the side whose politics you agree with leaks or gets leaked information for those politics, it's "uncovered" and there's no comment on the illegality of it. You seriously don't see the hypocrisy of that?

      As for my concerns, nice try. I can be concerned about more than one thing at a time, even if two of those things seem contradictory to you.

      I don't feel that this has been a fruitful conversation. You're welcome to get the last word if you like as I had the first.

    2. No you're not concerned that people were killed as a result of this administration's incompetence and their failures. You're more concerned that I didn't condemn the release of the supposedly classified document.

      So what you're saying is your ends (revealing information you thought was in the public interest) justified your means (further disseminating classified information that had been illegally leaked to you). Jason's point is that you are substituting your own judgment about what info should be released for that of the classifying authority. In doing so you are exhibiting exactly the same pattern of behavior that you criticized in the Obama administration. That you can't see that parallel suggest you're wearing your ideological blinkers awfully tight.

  3. I'm frequently amazed at how thin-skinned American soldiers are.
    As if mere words weren't only their Achilles heel, but even a kind of really long lever.

    I've lost count of the drama queens in uniform I've had the displeasure to observe while they did their "I'm offended" routine.

    Even more amazing is how readily many of them disrespect and offend others.

  4. We'll see how much the PSEC group goes angry about Petraeus now, as OPSEC violations by him appear to be part of the scandal.


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