I’ve just started writing a regular intelligence column at foreignpolicy.com. The first piece, up today, argues that the brouhaha over No Easy Day, the Osama bin Laden raid-and-tell book written by an ex-Navy SEAL, raises a much bigger problem: the disconnect between Americaâ€™s 20th century secrecy regime and the 21st century wired world. The US classification system is based on the idea that secrets can be clearly distinguished and tightly controlled. This may have been true when people wrote memos on manual typewriters and “made copies” using carbon paper. But distinguishing and controlling secrets has become much more problematic. Now, information is easy to get out and hard to take back. A guy with a fake Lady Gaga CD can surreptitiously download hundreds of thousands of classified pages at lightning speed. Keeping the lid on anything — from the Stuxnet virus in Iran to the Bo Xilai scandal in Beijing — seems almost unimaginable. Public yet classified information (from Wikileaks to drone strikes) is a mouse click away. All of these trends are making secrecy seem increasingly arbitrary and less meaningful. In the end this threatens both security and accountability. For the full piece, including discussions of Fawn Hall’s time at the shredder and my troubles with the FBI, see here.
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