Peter Brookes: Whatever happened to 'no comment'?

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Last week’s media bombshell that we’d infiltrated the Iranian nuclear program with a super-secret computer virus made it undeniable: There’s been way too much aired about sensitive U.S. operations in the past year or so.

Someone ought to tell Team Obama.

It started with the Osama bin Laden takedown last May, in which operational and intelligence details found their way out of the White House Situation Room to the press in just hours. In a slap at the leakers, then-Defense Secretary Bob Gates said, “We all agreed that we would not release any operational details from the effort to take out bin Laden ... That all fell apart on Monday — the next day.”

The situation was made worse by exposing the role a Pakistani doctor played in finding bin Laden. The doc now is going to jail for 30-some years — and the crafty inoculation program meant to get Osama’s DNA is blown.

This year, info escaped about the busting of the plot to put an “underwear bomber” on a U.S.-bound aircraft by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

While kudos goes to the intel community for this counterterrorism op, it was revealed the expected bomber was a double agent who’d penetrated AQAP. Now al-Qaida knows, too.

Then, late last week, came a news story on “Stuxnet,” the tippy-top-secret U.S.-Israel cyberassault on Iran’s uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz that’s been going on since the George W. Bush presidency. It’s terrific the cyberattack reportedly led to the destruction of some centrifuges used in Iran’s bomb program, but now the mullahs know who was behind the op.

All this boastful blabbing risks big consequences.

First, it’s likely to hurt future operations. It’s not like we’ll never want to use these techniques again — but they’ll be harder to pull off now that we’ve given the bad guys glimpses of our playbook. For the same reason, these revelations put our brave intelligence officers and special operators deeper in harm’s way.

And telling Iran who did a number on their nuclear plant likely will lead to attempts at revenge. Iran is no cyberslouch; wonder what U.S. targets now have bull’s-eyes on their circuitry?

Nor can this eye-opener have any positive effect on Washington’s far-flung hopes for a peaceful, diplomatic settlement with Tehran regarding its nuclear program.

And with all this out in the open, it’ll certainly be harder to lecture others — such as China and Russia — on their cyber conduct.

Naturally, leaks also affect our ability to recruit folks for future operations. Who wants to work for Uncle Sam if his name may be splashed across a newspaper’s front page? Jail is the gentlest of downsides if that happens.

Plus, Washington’s hemorrhaging of secrets is sure to give foreign governments pause about cooperating with us. That can’t be good.

We throw around the phrase “too much information” a lot in social banter, but TMI applies to our national security, too. Maybe the administration thinks TMI means “tell more intelligence”?

What happened to “no comment”?

The leaking can’t help but lead one to think Team Obama is so insecure about its national-security image that it thinks it must dish data about these classified operations for purely political purposes. If so, that’s shameful.

Regardless of the reason, though, the growing litany of leaks needs to stop ASAP.

Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense. He is an honorary director of The Steamboat Institute. Brookes will lead a discussion titled “It’s Not Just the Economy: America’s Foreign Policy Challenges” at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at The Ranch at Steamboat, 1800 Ranch Road. Admission is $10 and includes hors d’oeuvres. RSVP to 970-367-6084.

Comments

rhys jones 2 years, 6 months ago

Hmmm... Honorary Director of the Steamboat Institute, "deputy assistant" Secretary of Defense (the gofer's gofer, as I read it) Mr. Brookes' assertion that "Team Obama" is behind the leaks is pure speculation, backed by not one iota of evidence cited here. Let the mud-slinging continue, and base it on convenient lies. I cast my vote based on who lies the least, and Team Obama beats Mitt's Muckrakers hands down.

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mark hartless 2 years, 6 months ago

"Team Obama's" quarterback is EXACTLY the kind of self-absorbed narcisist that would do EXACTLY what was done here. Time will tell, maybe.

How a pelican-watcher in northwest Colorado knows which politician "lies the most" is beyond me. I thought knowing the hearts of men was the domain of God alone.

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rhys jones 2 years, 6 months ago

This pelican watcher is on sabbatical edging the Gulf of Mexico, and what that has to do with his ability to see through blatant pot-shotting at the expense of the truth and based on conjecture alone is beyond me.

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rhys jones 2 years, 6 months ago

And as long as we're pot-shotting and conjecturing -- I don't think it makes a damn bit of difference who occupies the Oval Office, as all wars are started by the Federal Reserve for their own personal gain. I find that eminently more plausible than Obama being behind any security leaks.

We drove by their headquarters in Houston yesterday, and that place is a virtual fortress.

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mark hartless 2 years, 6 months ago

The "poor", "down-trodden" lad travels and takes sabbaticals. Tell us again how unfortunate you are, how us "rich folks" have time for things that elude the humble masses.

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rhys jones 2 years, 6 months ago

Poor petty soul. Go ahead, take the last stab. Two if you want. If you ever have something constructive to contribute, I might respond. I am not holding my breath.

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rhys jones 2 years, 6 months ago

BTW -- I rode Greyhound down here, so I could work on sailboats in hot muggy weather, because I couldn't find squat for work in Shangri-La. While I don't envy you at all, I do miss cool weather.

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rhys jones 2 years, 6 months ago

Last comment: My initial comment addressed this article, and my impression of its motivations. Every one of your responses, Mark, has not addressed that issue, but contained personal attacks on me, in a lame effort to discredit me. It is exactly that sort of response which got the anonymous privileges revoked. Yet you do it bold-faced. Is that your real name, Mark?

Okay, let's take off the gloves. You are a petty and vindictive individual Mark, masquerading under the banner of your chosen God. When you have the brains and evidence to contribute to the discussion at hand, we are all ears. If you want to trade insults, I can do that too.

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