We All Took an Oath to Not Leak Classified Information, So Why Does It Keep Happening?

“A person can’t capriciously leak information that violates an oath no matter how prudent they believe in the reasoning behind it.”

By Joe Boatwright:

Everyone in the intelligence community with security clearances should know they violate federal laws when they share information inappropriately or illegally. Leaking information from intelligence agencies used to be called a form of spying, and was at times punishable by death. It seems in a liberal world the rules almost no longer apply, or we have a liberal justice department and/or agencies that are supposed to prosecute but won’t. You can’t just decide that you are going to violate federal laws just because you feel like it. A person can’t capriciously leak information that violates an oath no matter how prudent they believe in the reasoning behind it. Petulant children should be taught that their arrogant wishes do not supersede the rules that we all should follow. When we decide to pursue civil disobedience, we must be aware of the consequences, and decide if that disobedience is worth the potential punishment. If there is no punishment, then what keeps these law breakers or traitors from keeping their oaths and promises?

Leaking classified information always violates some form of federal laws. Those with clearances are repeatedly briefed on the consequences of doing so. At the very least, those involved should be fired and have their clearances revoked. Contractors have those same legal and ‘informal’ moral constraints plus non-disclosure agreements. In addition, we are briefed on security protocols to keep classified information, called Secret Compartmented Information (SCI) and controlled only by those with a need for the information, classified.

Again, you sign a non-disclosure agreement which states that sharing this information with those not requiring it carries similar penalties as the penalties imposed upon anyone with clearance would receive upon disclosing classified information. These protocols are in place so that even personnel with top secret (TS) clearances will not share information, even with others with the same clearances, unless they are also “read in” with a ‘need to know’ access. The rules for guarding classified information are entrenched in the mind’s of personnel throughout their career, from day one until they are ‘debriefed’ on their last day with instructions to continue to obey the rules even into retirement!

I have spent almost my entire adult life with a security clearance (mostly TS/SCI). I have polygraphs from the NRO, DIA, FBI, and CIA. I even took polygraphs before I went into the military. I also have signed non-disclosure agreements from before I was with the government, when I was in business with the government. I also took oaths multiple times with the military to defend my country against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and took oaths to not lie, cheat, or tolerate any one that did. I have been read in and briefed multiple times over 25 years and taken oaths to guard my country by understanding, agreeing to these ‘restrictions,’ and then signing to those facts. Never once was I ever told it was okay to violate any of these safeguards, regardless of the reason.

Have these legal and moral safeguards changed? I believe this is only the case in the minds of liberals who want to change the way we view our social and moral norms. Unfortunately, these changes have started to permeate our military, intelligence organizations, government, and education system. Mainstream media perpetuate those beliefs through their liberal view of the world; distorting facts to suit their agenda. Consequently, many of the nation’s social and moral beliefs on what is right and wrong have begun to disappear since the beginning of my career.

The military also has an obligation to not leak information, but it goes further than that. The military must obey rules, the chain-of-command, and be apolitical. Those in the government are civil servants (i.e., government employees) and contractors, often without a clearance. Every person in the military has taken an oath to guard their country, whether they have a clearance or not, against all enemies, foreign and domestic. When members of the military violate their oath, and/or their code of conduct, they are subject to the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice). Violating their code or oath, they can be punished internally, removed from the military with a dishonorable discharge, or subject to criminal punishment, depending on the severity of the violations. This applies to all service members, from privates to generals. General MacArthur, one of the greatest officers in the history of the U.S., may be the most famous example of someone of authority who was removed for violating his oath of office. He was removed for disagreeing publicly and forcibly with the President. Currently, enforcing that code of conduct seems to be elusive.

The societal view of what constitutes honorable standards has blurred over my lifetime, due to the growing influence of the left in all areas of our society. The leftist mainstream media helps by reinforcing these lax societal views. Once people start thinking in this manner, legal or moral commitments no longer matter, or they matter less, which is the same thing in my eyes. Examples abound of those that think they are above the law, including the recent ones who leaked intelligence for their own justifications. There should be more of an outrage, not just from those that have taken oaths to protect this information, but from those that know it is wrong morally and that it weakens our intelligence apparatus.

The fact that the justice department has done nothing should give one pause. Only certain people have access to the information leaked. Maybe those that should be investigating have a liberal agenda of their own. Possibly, that is why we recently saw examples of immoral and maybe illegal behavior during the elections. Our professional obligation is no different than our obligation to obey our marital vows in our personal lives. We take an oath to honor both and if we don’t, there will and should be consequences.

Joe Boatwright is an OpsLens Contributor and a retired Military Intelligence officer with experience as a senior analyst throughout the intelligence community, to include the CIA, DIA, the State Department, National Counterterrorism Center, Defense Threat Reduction Agency and National Reconnaissance Office.

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