News / USA

    WikiLeaks Disclosure Highlights Problems of Sharing Secret Information Within US Government

    The release of another huge trove of classified U.S. government documents by the WikiLeaks website came as a shock to many security experts. Previous WikiLeaks disclosures were low-level field reports on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the latest documents deal with diplomatic rather than military matters, and often at a high level. Some analysts say government agencies might have been more forthcoming in sharing information than they should have.

    For many people, such as British parliamentarian Malcolm Rifkind, the surprise in the release of thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables was not only in what they contained, but in how widely available they were in government circles.  

    "It is not just that they were made public, but that some of these cables are of hugely sensitive material. And I was certainly very surprised and concerned that literally thousands of people appear to have access to them. And obviously, the more people who have access, the more likely they are to leak," Rifkind said.

    Analysts say the WikiLeaks  disclosures can be traced in part to changes instituted in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. The 9/11 Commission sharply criticized intelligence agencies for failing to share critical information with each other that, when combined, might have revealed and perhaps thwarted the plot. But analysts say intelligence agencies by nature are secretive and distrustful of outsiders, so getting them to open up to each other has been a monumental task.

    The Pentagon created a classified computer network called the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNet, a classified Internet linking the Defense and State Departments, allowing them to exchange messages and information graded "Secret" or below. In the spirit of open exchange, it is accessible to anyone with the proper security clearance in either agency.

    But analysts say that the system's openness was its vulnerability. Officials say a U.S. Army private first class, or PFC, the third lowest rank in the Army, downloaded thousands of documents from SIPRNet and passed them on to WikiLeaks. PFC Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst, was arrested and charged in June in connection with another leak and is reported to be under investigation for other unauthorized disclosures to WikiLeaks.

    Former CIA General Counsel Jeffrey Smith says merely the idea that a low-ranking soldier could have access to such information raises disturbing questions.

    "It certainly is a real question as to why a private, even in the intelligence business, should have access to such vast amounts of data that would seem to have nothing to do with his responsibilities. On the other hand, there has been a great deal of criticism of the defense and intelligence community for not adequately sharing information. And I suspect that in their zeal to assist intelligence analysts, people were permitted access to things without adequate oversight," Smith said.

    Cyber intelligence expert Jeffrey Carr, who has advised the U.S. government on cyber threats, says he was shocked that there were apparently no monitoring and alert systems to warn that someone was downloading huge amounts of data. He says agencies relied too much on technology as a fix for the problem of information sharing.

    "People are always looking to find a technological solution and trust in automated systems, that somehow that's where the solution resides. And it doesn't. You know, you're always going to get owned when you put your trust 100 percent in some automated solution, security solution especially," Carr said.

    There are fears that agencies will now slip back into their own more secretive ways. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, whose job was created to spur cooperation and information sharing among government agencies, said earlier this month that previous WikiLeaks disclosures have not helped dissolve mutual bureaucratic distrust among the some 16 intelligence agencies of the federal government.

    "WikiLeaks and the continued hemorrhaging of leaks in the media don't do much to support the notion of integration and collaboration. So I personally think that the sweet spot, the balance here, has to be achieved between the need to share and the need to protect. And we have to do, for one, a much better job of auditing what is going on any - at least any IC [i.e., intelligence community]  computer. And so if somebody's downloading a half-billion documents and we find out about it contemporaneously, not after the fact," Clapper said.

    Time magazine reports that the State Department has already disconnected itself from SIPRNet, at least temporarily, and the Pentagon has ordered new measures to tighten security among the network's users.

    An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to the Directory of National Intelligence as Raymond Clapper. VOA regrets the error.

    You May Like

    Russian-speaking Muslim Exiles Fear Possible Russia-Turkey Thaw

    Exiled from Russia as Islamic radicals and extremists, thousands found asylum in Turkey

    US Presidential Election Ends at Conventions for Territorial Citizens

    Citizens of US territories like Guam or Puerto Rico enjoy participation in US political process but are denied right to vote for president

    UN Syria Envoy: 'Devil Is in the Details' of Russian Aleppo Proposal

    UN uncertain about the possible humanitarian impact of Russian proposal to establish escape corridors in Aleppo

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United Statesi
    X
    July 28, 2016 2:16 AM
    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora