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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Washington Post To Reveal Top Secret Facility Locations

It seems Washington Post's Dana Priest is about to shake up Washington and America's intelligence community once again and I, for one, am ambivalent about the story, more on why below the facts as we know them right now.

A document by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has been sent to 14,574 people, warning them that the Washington Post would be publishing a story which would reveal Top Secret facilities and the nature of the work conducted at those facilities.

The Letter:

Office of Origin: DS/EX

Announcement Number: 2010_07_059

Date of Announcement: July 15, 2010


Notification of Major Media Outlet Story On Monday July 19, the Washington Post plans to publish a website listing all agencies and contractors believed to conduct Top Secret work on behalf of the U.S. Government. The website provides a graphic representation pinpointing the location of firms conducting Top Secret work, describing the type of work they perform, and identifying many facilities where such work is done.

Although the Washington Post acquired the information from open sources, all Department personnel should remain aware of their responsibility to protect classified and other sensitive information, such as the Department's relationships with contract firms, other U.S. Government agencies, and foreign governments. Employees are reminded that they must neither confirm nor deny information contained in this, or any, media publication, and that the publication of this website and supporting articles does not constitute a change to the level of classification of any information duly classified in accordance with Executive Order 13526.

In the unlikely event you are contacted for comment, please forward any request for information to the Bureau of Public Affairs, Press Relations Office at (202) 647-2492.

When George Bush was President I condemned media when they endangered the lives of those sworn to protect us by publishing classified information in the name of a "story."

Now that Barack Obama is president, I still condemn the media for publishing classified information, if that is what the Post is going to do.

With that said, this publication is supposedly going to focus on government waste due to redundancy in the intelligence community.

Priest's story is said to focus on redundancies, particularly the number of individual counter-terrorism analytical cells costing the government billions of dollars. Some of the redundancy is deliberate because of the nature of intelligence work. But a lot of redundancy, especially in terms of information technology, is probably just wasteful.

With our economy as bad as it is, exposing billions of dollars in government waste is truly a story and the people do have the right to know, but do they need to know specific locations or the nature of any work deemed "Top Secret"?

The story is due to run Monday and until then it is only guesswork as to whether the information will endanger lives of anybody in our intelligence community.

The level of concern being shown by Office of the Director of National Intelligence suggests that damage control is being focused on prior to the relase of the series by Priest.

Evidenced by a followup memo obtained by The Atlantic, from Art House, director of communications for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to public affairs officers in the intelligence community.

Management of Responses

We do not know which agencies will receive attention, and each agency will need to manage its own responses. Many or all of you have participated in conference calls that have discussed this series, and ODNI PAO Director Wendy Morigi will continue to serve as point of contact for sharing information and discussion of questions received from employees and the media. The ODNI will send a message to its employees and will share that with you in case it's of use in crafting your own messages. She will also keep the NSC communicators apprised of the state of play as the series unfolds.

Office of Legislative Affairs Director Kathleen Turner will manage ODNI's response to inquiries from the Hill regarding the series.

It might be helpful as you prepare for publication to draw up a list of accomplishments and examples of success to offer in response to inquiries to balance the coverage and add points that deserve to be mentioned. In media discussions, we will seek to garner support for the Intelligence Community and its members by offering examples of agile, integrated activity that has enhanced performance. We will want to minimize damage caused by unauthorized disclosure of sensitive and classified information.

Next week we will convene a meeting or conference call to review procedural action before, during and after publication, and to compare substantive points that might be offered in rebuttal to the article.

Read the entire internal memo at The Atlantic.

The public has the right to know if there is massive waste totaling billions but does the public need to know specific locations and projects listed as Top Secret in order to inform them of such waste?

More to the point, do we want to know more than how much money is wasted if it will endanger lives? The lives of those in the intelligence community or lives that can be harmed by hampering the intelligence community in any way?