- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By "A. Little Accountability"
Best Defense guest columnist
In two months, NSA Director General Keith Alexander is retiring. He’ll likely be celebrated for all of his accomplishments, which will put him in league with Tommy R. Franks and George Tenet. One could say that Alexander has done for protecting our country’s secrets what Paul Bremer did for the smooth post-war transition in Iraq and former FEMA Director Michael "heckuva job" Brown did for Katrina preparation and response. Yet there has been absolutely no accountability regarding the Snowden leaks. Seems like the buck should stop with Alexander and/or Director of National Intelligence Clapper, no?
The Department of Justice prosecuted and put in jail for three years a former CIA employee who leaked the name of a covert employee, claiming it harmed national security. Yet here we see the person who arguably is responsible for the biggest unauthorized disclosure of our nation’s secrets lined up to get a nice retirement sendoff. Moreover, our government is bending over backwards to tell us how much the Snowden leaks have hurt national security (which I believe) and therefore they cannot also say that the NSA lapse that allowed these disclosures is not important.
Tom, you took your premise in The Generals, of accountability in generalship (or lack thereof), and applied it to all of our conflicts since World War II. Yet, for a reader to understand what you wrote, he or she either needs some familiarity with the conflicts, or needs to have read your books. But everyone knows what Snowden was able to do, and if you layer on the issue of government accountability, it allows the premise of The Generals to be made more clearly and succinctly to a much wider global audience.