Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Back When Classified Information Meant Something

These days, it doesn't seem like people think that exposing Top Secret information is much of a big deal. People like Ed Snowden decide to disseminate classified information to the whole world, and people like Hillary Clinton decide that classified information doesn't really need to be protected.

When did people become so egotistical that they believe that the rules don't apply to them? In their own ways, both Snowden and Clinton both put their egos and their own desires above what is good for national security.

It wasn't always like this. We used to have people who respected what national security was, and how important it is.

Simply put, in the Pacific, the U.S. Navy managed to do to Japan what the German Navy failed to do to Great Britain: strangle the enemy’s war economy through gradual attrition of the fleet and merchant navy by submarines.

The biggest reason for this American success was intelligence, specifically SIGINT. Thanks to a top secret program codenamed ULTRA, the U.S. Navy knew the locations of Japanese naval and merchant vessels and, armed with this information, American submarines were able to wreak devastation on the enemy’s merchant fleet and tonnage. ULTRA, which was based on the decryption of Japanese naval codes and ciphers, was the indispensable element in the American submarine campaign against Japan, although very few personnel knew this. During World War II, the U.S. military took concepts like compartmentalization and “need to know” seriously.

Captain Cromwell was fully “read on” for ULTRA and understood its importance to the secret war against Japan. He accepted the burden of such knowledge, and he went to sea for the last time on 5 November 1943, when he left Pearl Harbor with USSSculpin (SS-191), part of his squadron, on a war patrol to attack Japanese shipping in advance of the coming U.S. invasion of Tarawa.

By the middle of the month, Sculpin was on station off Truk and ready to engage the enemy. Its effort to attack a Japanese task force on the morning of 19 November was cut short by a faulty depth gauge, which led to the Sculpin surfacing right in front of the Japanese destroyer Yamagumo. While the submarine managed to dive again, numerous enemy depth charges forced Sculpin to the surface, into a one-sided gunfight with the Japanese destroyer. While Sculpin put up a good fight, cannons on the Yamagumo blasted her decks clean, killing most of the command group. The surviving deck officer made the decision to abandon ship and scuttle the submarine.

Some forty-one sailors from the Sculpin managed to escape the sinking vessel and were taken prisoner by the Japanese, but Captain Cromwell was not among them. When the word went out to abandon ship, John Cromwell stayed on the sinking submarine. The forty-two year-old husband and father knew he had no choice but to go down with the Sculpin. Not only had he been briefed on the impending invasion of Tarawa, but more importantly, he knew about the ULTRA secret, the U.S. Navy’s unmentionable ace in the hole against Japan.

Knowing he could not let the enemy, who was prone to torturing prisoners, find out about ULTRA, Captain Cromwell elected to go down with the boat; according to all survivors’ accounts, he did so calmly, stoically. The full story of John Cromwell’s heroism and sacrifice only became known to the U.S. Navy after the war, when Sculpin survivors emerged from Japanese captivity.
Simply put, classified information is important. It's not just a game. It's not something that some clerk stamps on a document to feel important. Real lives and real policy implications hang on it.

No, the United States is not at war right now, but the world ain't exactly a tea party right now, either. We need to be able to keep our secrets safe. The people trusted with those secrets need to understand the importance of keeping them safe.

1 comment:

  1. yep, I could see Hillary doing this

    Obama too

    Oh yeah, don't forget Trump - he would do this too

    heroes all

    just like John Kerry