This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.
Pfc. Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden are very different breeds of leakers, but they’re both examples of systemic security failures and personal arrogance.
The systemic part might be fixable. The people who review access to state secrets aren’t likely to be rubber-stamping security clearances for a while. Snowden and Manning — who is now being court-martialed — never would have gotten the information they spilled except for negligence on the part of their superiors.
Manning’s case is complex, but the detail that intersects national security is simple: An obviously troubled enlisted 22-year-old had easy access to staggering quantities of classified information at an Army base outside Baghdad, Iraq.
The Army’s information networks had to be spectacularly vulnerable.
Same deal with Snowden. A brilliant hacker working for the National Security Agency in Hawaii, he outfoxed the spooks who were supposed to spot even suspicious key strokes, and he tapped into documents supposedly restricted to only a few dozen NSA hierarchs.
If a low-ranking civilian contractor can get into the top-secret files of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, what might actual enemies of the United States be able to get into? These cases scream for radical restructurings of security practices in both the NSA and the Pentagon.
As for Manning and Snowden themselves, they are heroes only if one believes that it’s impossible to leak too much of America’s classified information.
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