Secrecy News

Information Sharing, By Hook or By Crook

The disclosure of a clandestine network of U.S. military officers that diverted classified documents from military agencies and illegally provided them to law enforcement agencies serves as a vivid reminder that improved information sharing within the government is a goal that has still not been achieved.

“Marine Gunnery Sgt. Gary Maziarz said patriotism motivated him to join a spy ring, smuggle secret files from Camp Pendleton and give them to law enforcement officers for anti-terrorism work in Southern California,” the San Diego Union-Tribune reported last Saturday.

Sgt. Maziarz and his men acted like Robin Hood in the forest of national security information, taking classified documents from the cleared and giving them to the uncleared.

“He knew his group was violating national security laws,” the Union-Tribune reported. “But he said bureaucratic walls erected by the military and civilian agencies were hampering intelligence sharing and coordination, making the nation more vulnerable to terrorists.”

This is of course a self-serving story, and it doesn’t explain the stolen weapons or steroids found along with the pilfered documents by military investigators.

But neither is there any evidence so far of espionage on behalf of a foreign power, or any indication of a financial motive in stealing the records.

Taken at face value, the rise of the interagency document smugglers points to a continuing defect in government information policy. It also suggests that the national security classification system may break before it bends. In other words, it may fail catastrophically before it can be substantially reformed.

See “Marine Took Files as Part of Spy Ring” by Rick Rogers, San Diego Union-Tribune, October 6.

The story was also picked up today by the Los Angeles Times.

The failure to achieve optimal information sharing is not in dispute.

“Institutional rules and legacy culture continue to hamper effective information sharing,” a report (pdf) from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence admitted yesterday.

“There are outdated policy, customs, and technical constraints on information access and dissemination that impede the production of finished products our customers require.”

See “500 Day Plan: Integration and Collaboration,” Office of Director of National Intelligence, October 2007.

0 thoughts on “Information Sharing, By Hook or By Crook

  1. I am a former Military Intelligence officer, and last served as the course manager for the 5th Intelligence training area school course for Security Managers.

    I just finished reading the article “Marine took files as part of spy ring”. In that article I noticed a comment that enemies of the US would find it easier to obtain classified material from local law enforcement agencies than they would from the federal government. I am aware of the various security measures required by the federal government, and I am also aware of the need to get actionable intelligence to those who need it to do their jobs. (comments of the Commandant of the Army Intelligence Center and School).

    There is no doubt that close cooperation between intelligence services and local police agencies is a must in order to both preserve our freedoms and our safety. It is well known that the threat exists, not only in our nation’s largest cities, but also hides in our suburbs and rural areas. Information made available to these suburban and rural law enforcement agencies may tie in with local observations by them and produce more dots to connect. Terrorists (and other enemies) seek locations where they stand a better chance of not being detected. It is for this reason they migrate to these lesser trained and informed jurisdictions in my opinion.

    The solution would be an easy one to implement. I propose that a single person in each agency be cleared for receipt of classified information, and trained in security requirements. All federal laws and regulations would be enforced at the agency as far as document and other security necessities. Clearing of law enforcement officers would be a simple matter. Federal clearances for “Confidential” and “Secret” material are granted based on a national agency check (NAC). Most departments do this routinely in the hiring process already. If not, they should be. Further, “Top Secret” clearances are granted based on a favorable background check. This is usually done in conjunction with local law enforcement plus interviews. There is no reason that the local agency could not perform those interviews in the manner prescribed. This would also assist federal efforts to complete background investigations by reducing their workload.

    In the local agency, the cleared “security manager” would decide who had a “need to know” classified information, and how much to reveal. Intelligence methods and sources would, naturally, be required to be withheld.

    W. James Beattie

  2. I am a former Foreign Disclosure Officer…I dealt with this for a long time and I agree for the most part on your solution. But, you also have to think of the disclosure of information. It still would have to be “declassified” to a certain extent to rid it of sources and methods. That part plays HUGE and cannot be done by anyone other then the originator of the information. If, indeed that originator creates it for dissemination that would make it easier for everyone. It has to start there. Otherwise, once the “cleared” individuals have the infomation, they would still have to go back to the originator to request a declass cut of it…before it could legally disseminated to anyone.

  3. True, the highest protection should be afforded to methods and sources. This, typically is not released under any of the three major classifications (Top Secret collateral included) It is only when material is classified Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) is such information as sources and methods included. Naturally, those who would provide the information to law enforcement agencies would deny such sensitive information unless redacted to eliminate the SCI information. I doubt that those with SCI clearances would even consider releasing the sources or methods anyway because they would recognize the damage the release would generate. As a former police officer myself, I know that the law enforcement agencies have their own sensitive information which is not released to anyone not having a need to know, so they would recognize the reason(s) this information would be withheld.

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