Intelligence: The Hidden Treasure

I spent thirty-five years of my life working in intelligence, defined by Merriam-Webster as “evaluated information concerning an enemy or possible enemy or a possible theater of operations and the conclusions drawn therefrom.” I’d define it as facts about a foreign nation. Because a nation that is the target of intelligence can so easily conceal all information about itself, the collection, analysis, and stockpiling of information about it is almost always kept secret. And the degree of classification of intelligence information as confidential, secret, top secret, codeword, and compartmented most often depends on the degree of damage or loss that its revelation would entail.

During my years in the “business,” as we called it, I knew of a great variety of events and situations of utmost importance to the U.S. that were never made public. So often, the use of intelligence prevented a disaster that the American public knew nothing of. The entire set of events—from detection, intervention, and prevention—was never revealed to the citizens because its publication would have resulted in the loss of an invaluable intelligence source of great importance to maintaining the well-being of the U.S. After a certain number of years (my guess is fifty), classified data can be made public. But very often, the means used to obtain the information is still in use. Revelation of the data would point toward how it was obtained. So the information itself is not declassified.

U.S. citizens have no grounds for complaint. The silent world of classified detection, action, and reaction plays out in our defense without our knowledge. We are saved from disaster without knowing it. So be it.

And God bless those who, unbeknownst to us and unthanked by us, spare us from catastrophe.

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