That is one of those military acronyms which everyone who has ever been in the military for longer than – oh, I don’t know – a couple of years? A single hitch in one of the armed services? Whatever; what it means in plain English is “operations security” – and what that entails in the larger sense – drilled in by basic training, refresher training, briefings, a constant dribble of AFRTS spots cautioning the same in 30 second bites, and occasionally by the direct intervention of a supervisor administering a stern reminder – is that you keep your mouth shut about stuff and treat classified material with every care. Even stuff that seems minor, inconsequential, trivial, and is not in point of fact, actually classified. Because a whole lot of little pieces put together by an expert analyst could reveal a pretty big picture; a big and possibly life-threatening picture to someone, or hundreds, even thousands of someones.

I performed this analysis myself in a small way myself, during the build-up to the First Gulf War, through the medium of casually listening to a whole lot of reader spots emanating from our lead station, and some chatter from friends, to the effect that they couldn’t get a reserved room in the casual barracks at that base, all of a sudden. And sure enough – a radio reader spot to the effect that there was limited availability of rooms in a particular transient facility. Another reader, to the effect of restricting automobile traffic on a certain road at that base; checking a map of that base revealed that road was the one in front of that very transient facility. And finally – a notice to the effect that mowing the grass in that particular area was delayed until further notice. Put that together with knowing that transport aircraft were stopping over in large numbers on their way downrange … why, yes; the aircrews were being billeted there, to catch up on sleep before the last long haul to Saudi Arabia. Unclassified? Heck yes – it was on the radio, for gosh sake. Significant information for someone who might want to disrupt the transportation conveyor belt into the theater of conflict? Very possibly.

In the larger sense, OPSEC means paying attention, and especially paying attention to that which is classified information. My own clearance and that of other broadcasters never went any higher than Secret, possibly because we were broadcasters and the powers-that-be feared and probably with good reason (see above) that we would inadvertently blab all kinds of indiscreet stuff into a live microphone. Even at that lowly level, I dealt later on with classified information as the security NCO. The production facility at Hill AFB occasionally worked with materiel which was restricted from general use; yes, we had a secure safe, and now and again I had to serve as courier, collecting classified scripts, video footage and other stuff which I did not actually know what it was – as it was all secured in a sealed envelope – meeting the arriving carrier at the gate at SLC airport, and taking it to the unit and securing it in the safe. I didn’t deal with this materiel often enough to become blasé through familiarity, and I was never in the least bit of doubt that loosing, or compromising classified materiel would have severe adverse effects on my so-called career.

History is chock-full of instances where a break in security – the intercepted message, the boastful bragging to the wrong person, or an outright traitor – spelled disaster and death. History is likewise full of instances where a strategic or tactical secret was kept through heroic efforts on the part of individuals or organizations, an effort rewarded with success. Knowing that people may die, and in job-lots, if you are not careful does tend to concentrate ones’ attention to OPSEC. And this is why that practically every retired military person that I have talked to personally, or commented through social media in the last couple of days, is incandescently furious that Hilary Clinton – for reasons of her own carelessness or convenience – flung down and danced upon every procedure on the books for keeping classified information secure. There are people who have had careers wrecked, been charged, served time for just a hundredth part of the lack of care that she demonstrated in her time as Secretary of State.

But none of them are or were Hilary Rodham Clinton. To compromise national security on a grand scale is obviously one of those privileges which rank hath.

15 thoughts on “OPSEC”

  1. Sgt Mom, the war in this case was between the Clintons and the Obama Crew. Both combatants were more concerned with this war than any kind of actual security or foreign policy issues in the real world. Under Obama, it was commonplace for Cabinet level officials to use external email usually under false names to hide their real agenda. Senior EPA officials and Lois Lerner come to mind. So Hillary’s server was not viewed with any alarm by DOJ or the WH, but rather as a perfectly normal thing to do. Again since their enemies were Republicans or rivals, the did not consider risks of actual espionage to be an issue.

    Since Hillary was really locked out of any substantive foreign policy role by Obama, she remained in the air constantly. This gave her time to enrich the Clinton Foundation but lowered the actual risk of classified leaks since she had so little involvement. I’m amazed that out of nearly 60,000 mails she had so few classified ones.

    To me the real crime was that our foreign policy was so ineptly run and neglected for the past eight years. Foes such as Iran did not need to break US cyber security as they simply had to ask for the information.

  2. “…since their enemies were Republicans or rivals, the did not consider risks of actual espionage to be an issue.”

    This is the totally exasperating aspect to this. It’s as if they were playing some kind of academic common-room game. And if it winds up costing even more lives that it already has, they will go swanning off to a gold-plated retirement to write their memoirs, because all those dead are just … cheap collateral. Not real people at all.

  3. The Department of State is infamous for their lax attitude about operational security. Because of this my strong impression is that the other more serious agencies (DOD, CIA, NSA, etc.) have always been reluctant to share highly classified information with State. That may partially explain why so few classified messages were sent to her. It may also indicate that very little that State does is vitally important or at best is not based on important information.

    Going to be interesting to see if that model moves into the White House. Perhaps more accurately, if it is perpetuated to an even greater extent under the next administration.


  4. “It may also indicate that very little that State does is vitally important or at best is not based on important information.” The Diplomad might give some small objection to that — but I won’t. The most exasperating time that I ever had anything much to do with them was in Athens. And in their yearly strike action, the unions that supplied base workers would barricade access to the base, and the folks at the American Embassy would do sweet fanny adams about it. During one of these blockades, I got a phone call at the EBS-Hellenikon station from some Embassy staffer whining about not being able to get on base to shop at the BX.
    This when we had mobs of protesters for all but a few hours in the early morning, blocking the single gate and not letting anything pass. Including ambulances with patients needing medical evacuation to the big med-centers in Germany.

  5. No security clearance here, I looked at a chart that was classified once, and the Quartermaster nearly had a baby, “oh man, you can’t look at that, I’ll…” But we are talking about something far and away beyond the pale in the post ’08 era. Aldrich Ames must be beside himself, as the implications of this caper are staggering. They are adept at keeping a number of balls in the air, to constantly deflect attention. Orlando is old news, no details forthcoming, we’re onto the Clinton Deal and now Dallas.

  6. I wonder how many people have been outed, friendly others and our own – and wonder how many have met with accidents.

  7. I have twice had a remote connection to secret matters. In those days the British practice was that you “signed the Official Secrets Act”. The Act applied whether you’d signed it or not; the signing was a bit of theatre designed to drive home that this was a serious matter.

    Naturally I cannot tell you what those remote connections were.

    After Chernobyl I did a bit of work for HMG, arranged at lightning speed (and unpaid and unthanked, I may say). I suppose it was rather logical that the security theatre wasn’t repeated but I must say I was mightily impressed at how quickly HMG could supply me with copious amounts of info on the ill-fated reactor.

  8. OPSEC, sloppiness, etc., can’t explain how TS/SCI ended up on her server. That stuff doesn’t exist on non-classified networks. Period. Someone jumped an airgap. It’s too bad no one in media knows squat about how classified material works to know that.

  9. ” It’s too bad no one in media knows squat about how classified material works to know that.”

    I doubt they care,

  10. Brian Says:
    July 9th, 2016 at 3:35 pm

    Of course, whoever jumped the air gaps, and whoever stripped the classification markings is due for a lifetime or two in a dungeon with an irate person [and I volunteer] with hot irons, various sized and shaped sharp implements, and an electrode or twelve wielded with inquisitory and punitive intent. But looking for them can only further implicate the Hillary apparat and make it harder to force people to overlook her treason.

    They will not allow such an inquiry to take place, unless they have absolutely no alternative.

  11. “I doubt they care,”

    You’re right, of course. Occasionally I slip up and think that someone, anyone, in the media is on a good-faith search for truth. It usually passes quickly.

  12. A prime example of reporters and editors who do not care about secrecy or security of national secrets is the exposure of the SWIFT program in blocking terrorist financing.

    They were asked not to reveal it and it was explained how important it was. They paid no more attention than Colonel McCormack paid to the role of Japanese code breakers and the need to keep it secret after the Midway battle.

    Fortunately, the Japanese did not read the Chicago Tribune.

  13. ErisGuy–I think the State Dept people view themselves as supporting the US; the disconnect is that they have always been a very narrow group with a substantial history of ignoring, even subverting, political authority and decisions with which they do not agree, coupled with a mindset that is very narrowly defined by class and the Harvard/Yale/Princeton axis.

    Nixon and Kissinger responded by cutting them out of the big stuff–detente with the USSR, opening to China. Obama, OTOH, knows they are his kind of people and will apply their skills to helping him.

    Back in the day there was a joke about J Edgar Hoover viewing the current occupant of the White House as a mere transient. I think that applies even more to State, where the elite culture perpetuates and reinforces itself generation after generation as each group selects, trains and acculturates its successor.

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