As I write, I’m listening to President Biden answering press questions following his address to the nation on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He referred to “declassified evidence” of Russian moves, suggesting that the U.S. has made public secret information gathered by the U.S. intelligence apparatus.
As regular readers of the blog know, I spent my entire U.S. government career in intelligence. I was professionalized as an analyst and a linguist, comfortable in seven languages, and was deployed to many different locations around the world, many still classified. I spent the longest time in Vietnam. Between 1962 and 1975, I was in Vietnam more than I was in the U.S. using three of my languages—Vietnamese, Chinese, and French—to assist U.S. and friendly forces in combat through the intercept and exploitation of enemy radio communications.
On a number of occasions over the years, I witnessed losses in intelligence resulting from decisions by the president to make classified information public. Once an intelligence target learns that we are deriving valuable information, he or she can easily take steps to stop us by closing down or replacing the exploited activity. More often than not, in my judgment, what was gained by the public revelation was far less important than the source loss we suffered.
So I am left wondering what losses have resulted from President Biden’s revelations. Long since retired, I am no longer cleared for classified information, so I’ll never know.