- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.
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.
Shane Harris is a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy, covering intelligence and cyber security. He is the author of The Watchers: The Rise of America's Surveillance State, which chronicles the creation of a vast national security apparatus and the rise of surveillance in America. The Watchers won the New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism, and the Economist named it one of the best books of 2010. Shane is the winner of the Gerald R. Ford Prize for Distinguished Reporting on National Defense. He has four times been named a finalist for the Livingston Awards for Young Journalists, which honor the best journalists in America under the age of 35. Prior to joining Foreign Policy, he was the senior writer for The Washingtonian and a staff correspondent at National Journal.| Exclusive |
John Reed is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He comes to FP after editing Military.com’s publication Defense Tech and working as the associate editor of DoDBuzz. Between 2007 and 2010, he covered major trends in military aviation and the defense industry around the world for Defense News and Inside the Air Force. Before moving to Washington in August 2007, Reed worked in corporate sales and business development for a Swedish IT firm, The Meltwater Group in Mountain View CA, and Philadelphia, PA. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter at the Tracy Press and the Scotts Valley Press-Banner newspapers in California. His first story as a professional reporter involved chasing escaped emus around California’s central valley with Mexican cowboys armed with lassos and local police armed with shotguns. Luckily for the giant birds, the cowboys caught them first and the emus were ok. A New England native, Reed graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a dual degree in international affairs and history.| The Complex |