Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Air Force deprives its officers of important intelligence

WASHINGTON — The Air Force is barring its personnel from using work computers to view the Web sites of The New York Times and more than 25 other news organizations and blogs that have posted secret cables obtained by WikiLeaks, Air Force officials said Tuesday

There's an outfit at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas that few people know about that does something called "open-source intelligence." Reputedly this unit predicted the demise of the Soviet Union -- while the CIA and other "secret" intelligence agencies were reporting the regime's strength -- using a very simple technique: Its offers read Russian papers and books. And that's pretty much all they did. They could see the end coming because of the publicly available information.

And, of course, most of the American government learned about nuclear testing in Pakistan and India from ... CNN.

I'm reminded of these stories for some reason in reading about the Air Force's decision to block its officers from reading the New York Times online. It's not just a show of weakness disguised as a show of strength; it is literally a way of keeping intelligence -- and not just the Wikileaks kind -- out of the hands of its officers. That doesn't seem to be the kind of thing a smart military would do.

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