How WikiLeaks could undo post-9/11 intelligence reforms
A former US diplomat who helped push for the intelligence-sharing reforms aimed at preventing another 9/11 says the WikiLeaks fiasco could prompt a reversal.
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The trade-off after 9/11 was more sharing between various arms of the government, such as the State Department information and the military, since the security of those documents was seen as less crucial than the security of the nation.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Wikileaks and the war in Iraq
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"I helped work on trying to end the suffocating stovepiping that led to flawed decisions," says Mr. White. "They’re going to re-stovepipe, which is precisely what we spent a decade trying to stamp out, with the US government's left hand often not knowing what the right was doing."
Starting in the early 1980s, White built his career around analyzing the contents of conversations and the cables they generate for the State Department. He served in Baghdad, as the intelligence briefer on Iraq and Iran to the Gulf States during those two countries' ruinous war; as the INR chief on Iraq, Iran, and the Arabian Peninsula for more than a decade; and head of INR's Iraq team for the first two years of the US-led war there.
He says a rollback of information sharing is going to be much worse in the long run than the chill in government-to-government candor.
"In the region, sources are simply going to be more secretive, and probably in dealing with other governments that use similar systems, like the French or the British or the Italians. Somebody else in one of those countries might decide he wants to be a cyberhero," says White. "But these sorts of things wear off, five to six years down the road we’ll be back to more frank and interesting chats. But any re-stovepiping in the government will be analytically destructive ... and once those things get in place, they're very difficult to remove."
Lawrence Korb, a former Pentagon official now at the Center for American Progress in Washington, said in an interview with the Monitor on Monday that the larger issue is not a shift in other countries' strategic decisions, but rather a dearth of diplomatic communication – including on the US side.
"No country is going to suddenly act against its own self-interest because of this,” he said. "The real issue here is whether our own diplomats now are going to be as forthcoming as they used to be."