The Next E-mail Scoop!

When Democrats were holding their collective breath waiting for the next e-mail shoe to drop, perhaps we should be questioning why so much “official”, “privileged”, and “personal” information was sent by e-mail in the first place? And you could add to that question, why so many run of the mill non-sensitive cables are being sent as “confidential” or even “secret.” As far as I can see, an E-mail is the same as publishing your information on the front page of the New York Times.  And “Confidential” cables should be compared to page 10 of the Washington Post.  Perhaps today, all that generic security labels, like “Secret” or “Top Secret” do is to make it easier for the Russians, Private Manning, or Julian Assange to build the the algorithms that sort out the wheat from the thousands of pieces of chaff. IN ANY EVENT THOSE WHO CLASSIFY THEIR WORK IN THE FIRST PLACE ARE NOT ALWAYS ANY MORE ACCURATE THAN MY CLASSIFICATION OF THIS ARTICLE.

At my Embassies in Cairo and Tel Aviv I banned my officers from sending e-mails to Washington. That was quite a while ago, and I am sure that there were those who ignored my dictate, either to bypass the onerous Washington clearance process, or for reasons of expedience.  I didn’t blame them, but at least they had to think twice. Realistically, they still had their cell phones to call their friends in DC and there was nothing I could do about that.

But, as Bibi Netanyahu told me one day while I was walking into his office with cell phone in hand, “you know every one can listen to that – we do.”  So, when I had something sensitive to send to the Secretary of State it went by a cable with a limited distribution handling indicator inside the State Department and Government like “Nodis,” which was handled solely inside the State Department’s executive offices and was limited to a named list of recipients. Neither private Manning, Wikileaks nor the Pentagon could get their hands on it.  Nor would anyone else in the government have access (except possibly the NSA.) And when I really wanted security, I dialed Dennis Ross, then at State, or he dialed me and we conversed by secure telephone – no paper, no distribution, no historical record, and no risk of compromise.

There is a lot of water under this bridge and perhaps more to come, but, at least, hopefully we have learned something about e-mails and classification and the water will become a trickle rather than a flood. But don’t count on it.