Dead Drop: April 8

DOWNGRADE AND SHARE: There was an interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal this week by Warren Strobel about the trend by the U.S. government to quickly declassify and share with the public and allies, intelligence relating to the Russian war against Ukraine. If this were fishing – it might be called “catch and release.” In this case, the new policy calls for going much farther than they have in the past, to turn secrets into weapons by letting them go. While the first flurries of downgrade and share did not prevent the Russians from invading Ukraine, (despite Kremlin pledges that they had no such intention) the piece says that U.S. officials believe the sharing did deter some “false flag” operations. Former NSA General Counsel (and current Cipher Brief expert) Glenn Gerstell, is quoted calling the tactic, “..a harbinger” adding that “Future conflicts are going to be shaped, instigated and deterred by releases of information beforehand.” If you think getting information and using it is a no-brainer – you haven’t hung around the Intelligence Community much. There is always the risk that putting out information obtained now will prevent you from collecting similar information down the road. But the practice has won some champions on the Hill.  Senator Mark Warner, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said: “My gosh, maybe the West is finally winning the information war.” Nicole de Haay, a spokesperson for the Director of National Intelligence said, “The intelligence community surged personnel and resources to support classification reviews.”

OVER SHARING: Sparked by a March 11th piece in SpyTalk, there is continuing debate about whether internal intelligence community chat rooms on the Intelink system were full of inappropriate political discussion in recent years including commentary supportive of the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol.  A column by MSNBC contributor Frank Figliuzzi, cites another SpyTalk piece that says both the House and Senate intel committees are aware of the allegations and are reviewing them. Figliuzzi also calls for IC leaders to step up and prevent their subordinates from using classified environments “to exchange recipes, racism or radicalization” and to identify any employees who have used the chat rooms in the past to espouse violence or support attempts to overturn valid elections.  Now, that’s what we call ‘over sharing’.

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