by Scott Taylor
Former Special Operations members and CIA officers are stepping forward in unprecedented numbers to declare enough is enough. I chair an organization called OPSEC – short for operation security – which is a coalition of Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces, DELTA Force, Marines, and CIA operators who have emerged from the shadows to speak out against these leaks on behalf of those still in harm’s way who lack the ability to go public.
Whether fighting a war, running a business, or simply playing a game of basketball, disclosing your strategies or capabilities hinders success – and in combat it can be a lethal mistake. The youngest athletes and lowest of ranks in the military understand this but apparently some of our nation’s most senior leaders do not.
There has been an alarming rise in classified leaks from the highest levels of Government intended to drive policy – or even worse, political — agendas. Unless something is done to stop it, the success of those very missions and the safety of the Americans who undertake them will be severely threatened.
Among the worst examples of leaks and politicization was a highly partisan TV ad the Obama Administration produced on the one year anniversary of the raid in which Navy SEALs killed Osama Bin Laden. I and others volunteered for dangerous work to protect our country and using that sacrifice for political purposes is simply offensive to those who serve no matter which candidate they support.
Unfortunately, the damage done by leaks from the Obama Administration goes from offensive to downright dishonorable. By leaking classified information about operational tactics and tradecraft and disclosing highly sensitive operations like Stuxnet and the infiltration of al Qaeda, this Administration has put the lives of our forces and our allies and the success of our operations at much greater risk.
From cozy offices in Midtown Manhattan or over drinks in Georgetown, these concerns are brushed aside as being naïve or even at odds with the principles of democracy. To those people, leaks are just a part of doing business in Washington or are actually necessary to keep government in check.
As a former Navy SEAL, I feel certain the perspective of these people would change significantly if their place of business was closer to Helmand province than Times Square or if their drink was coming out of a canteen near Ramadi rather than a tap on K street.
Risks to American lives and success of our Special Operations missions from leaks are all too real. More knowledgeable leaders like Dianne Feinstein and Bob Kerrey have said that the amount and detail of leaks over the past couple years have been unprecedented. Efforts to stop them must be unprecedented therefore as well.
Special Operations members have an ethos of staying quiet, not seeking recognition for our achievements. While we will continue to avoid acknowledgement for our successes, we will not be quiet in criticizing the leaks of politicians and policymakers anymore.
I’ve hugged the widows and children of fallen brothers and many of my peers are still active, still serving in faraway places as their families and friends pray for their safe return. I and others are speaking out to try to protect them from even one unnecessary death brought on by irresponsible leak for a selfish political or policy gain.
Politics may be the art of persuasive speaking. But when it comes to sensitive or classified information that is critical to the safety and success of our CIA and Special Operations forces, it’s time for the politicians to shut up.