David Ignatius writes: One conclusion that emerges from The Post’s revelation Thursday of the secret “black budget” for intelligence activities is that the United States doesn’t have many secrets anymore — not in the age of WikiLeaks and omnipresent whistleblowers. It’s only because of the forbearance of Post editors that all 178 pages of this top-secret “Talent-Keyhole” document were not blasted to the world.
The demonstrated inability of the U.S. government to keep secrets causes obvious problems for the intelligence agencies, which exist to steal other peoples’ classified goodies and protect their own. But it’s not so clear that this world of leaks threatens the security of the American republic. That’s because the very meaning of secrecy is changing in a world of transparent social media, where it must be assumed that every keystroke and GPS location may be captured by someone.
I write this reluctantly, as someone who favors a strong intelligence community for the United States that can protect the country against real threats from abroad. But if one theme emerges from these documents, it’s that the United States has been spending an awful lot for intelligence, especially at the CIA, without getting enough in return. What’s needed is better management, rather than more secrecy.
“Secrecy, compartmentation and overclassification today are used to conceal malfeasance, systemic corruption and intelligence shortfalls,” argues John Maguire, a career CIA operations officer who retired several years ago. I hear similar criticisms from other former officers who think a leaner, better-managed CIA would be more effective. [Continue reading…]