I don't often dabble in political topics on my blog. It's not something I like doing or seeing done in public fora. But this week, after watching several promos about an upcoming interview on NBC News later tonight, I can't let this pass without comment. Apologies in advance if I offend anyone's views or sensibilities.
Many in our country, and likely other countries as well, have gone through a full range of emotional reactions about a young man who decided his individual mission should be to expose his country’s deepest secrets. His stated motivation from the beginning has been that the U.S. government has violated its basic charter to preserve and protect its citizenry as guided by the Constitution—a view I don't personally share. Such a grand motivation assumes a certain righteousness that no one else working in the government (or knowledgeable of its inner workings) could ever possess.
I believe the single person who might ever have made such a claim of pure righteousness chose not to set himself apart in such a way. Instead he simply challenged anyone who is guiltless to cast the first stone. To me, the young man who betrayed his country’s trust is now a man without a country. He is a liability wherever he lands and the country which might opt to claim him is rare indeed.
As for the damage done to national security, is there a cost to restore the level of protection for systems and data which trusted authorities are responsible to protect? Yes. Will the recovery take time? Yes. Will the locks to the kingdom be rekeyed and the new keys secured? Yes—they no doubt already have been. So, what else is left to do? What is to become of the man without a country? The answer is largely up to him. He will decide if or when he will return to face his fate in his homeland.
But what about the value of anything he has to say? Very likely, there’s not much. With each passing day, week and month, anything he revealed or plans to reveal continues to become less relevant. As soon as his treason was exposed, the government would have immediately implemented defensive procedures. First, every effort would have been made to determine what was lost. Second, anything and everything that could have been changed would have been changed to blunt the impact of the revelations.
And yet some seem to believe there is entertainment value in an interview. Perhaps. For at great expense and with considerable effort, a U.S. news agency has arranged an interview with the young traitor. But what is the story to report? Personally, I would be surprised if there is a story or if anyone is interested. So, move along—there’s nothing to see here, right?
But wait. There may be a story after all. Instead of the focus being the interviewee, the real story may be the details of what it took to arrange the interview in the first place. How long did the negotiations take? Who should do the interview? How would all the media gear be transported into the country without creating a stir? What location would have the lowest profile for the interview? Would extra security be needed? Would there be cover stories and aliases for the news crew? How long would the interview team stay before and after the interview? Would they be transported in and out of the interview location under cover of darkness or in plain sight? And what was the Quid Pro Quo exchanged between the U.S. and Russia to allow the interview to happen?
The only other possibility that an interview might be of value would be to create opportunities during the interview for the young traitor’s narcissism and ego to kick in. For example, he might inadvertently reveal something that would otherwise be left to conjecture. Is there a crack in the purity of his motives? Did his ego get in the way of rational decision making? In front of millions or even billions in the TV audience, will he come across as a true patriot or will he appear flippant, foolish, arrogant, untrustworthy and irrelevant? And maybe in all that will he have any regrets?
Personally, I have struggled mightily with the question of whether I will watch the interview or not. My feeling is that the possibility of any value coming out of the interview is very likely a craps shoot. Anyone in the Intelligence business, whether collecting, processing or disseminating, understands that failure to protect data and information held in the national interest is a failure to protect the interest of every American. Anyone deliberately betraying that trust puts Americans at risk and is an affront to all who have been or are in the information security and facility security business. The idea of watching the interview in hopes some value, or better yet even the slightest shred of satisfaction, will come out of it is indeed a bitter pill.