Leaks Aren't 'In,' Clapper Tells Intelligence Community

In a blunt memo, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper admonishes intelligence community personnel to stop "blabbing secrets" and said he is concerned about "recent leaks" of classified information.

Normally, reporters would use the word "surprisingly" before "blunt" when describing an official communique that is written in clear, concise English, but Clapper's memo reflects the man: plainspoken, not given to nonsense or ornamental language.

Officials would not say which leaks troubled Clapper, but there is a menu; just yesterday, a State Department analyst was indicted for allegedly telling Fox News what U.S. intelligence agencies concluded about how North Korea would respond to diplomatic and military pressure. Wikileaks is currently processing a new round of Afghan war cables and traffic and last week released a classified CIA red cell assessment.

My guess is that the New York Times and Washington Post's recent reporting about high-ranking Afghanistan government officials on the CIA payroll produced significant consternation at the White House, the State Department, and the Department of Defense. Former CIA officials believe that these leaks originate from elements of the military who think that the CIA's parochial interests undermine, and even work against, the president's strategy.  In turn, Pentagon officials have not been happy with recent reporting about the expanding intelligence-gathering role of special operations task forces, believing that these leaks originate with the CIA. Clapper, in other words, might be trying to tamp down on the use of leaks to influence policy.

"We have established procedures for authorized officers to interact with the media. For everyone else, unauthorized disclosure of our work is both a serious matter and a diversion from the critical tasks we face. In other words, blabbing secrets to the media is not 'in' as far as I'm concerned," Clapper says in the memo.  "Let's get on with our mission by keeping our secrets and serving our country."

The nation's top counter-intelligence officer, Bear Bryant, continues to work on a policy that would discourage leaks by tightening internal penalties and providing new channels for would-be whistle-blowers to talk to senior officials with less fear of retribution.
 

To Members of the Intelligence Community

 

 

As members of the Intelligence Community, we are entrusted with confidential information.  It is our lifelong duty to protect that information.

 

I am concerned that recent leaks regarding our work have received prominent attention in the media.  I remind all members of the Intelligence Community that being in the intelligence business demands serious commitment to our work and an obligation not to share secrets with others, including the media.

 

When President Obama announced my appointment I said that people in the intelligence business should be like my grandchildren - seen but not heard.

 

We have established procedures for authorized officers to interact with the media.  For everyone else, unauthorized disclosure of our work is both a serious matter and a diversion from the critical tasks we face.  In other words, blabbing secrets to the media is not "in" as far as I'm concerned.  Let's get on with our mission by keeping our secrets and serving our country.

 

James R. Clapper


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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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