In Great Britain, a major newspaper is reporting that a decorated Army officer has been “dismissed” (meaning “discharged”) from the Army for keeping “top secret documents” at home.
The documents were found when Major Robert Armstrong’s service quarters in Lisburn, Co Antrim, was raided in 2009.
The secret documents included “43 confidential, 114 secret and two top secret”, the later being the most sensitive class of information, files.
A further 23 documents were not protectively marked but were potentially “sensitive”. In the US they would probably been marked “Confidential”…
A prosecutor noted: ‘If some of the documents fell into the wrong hands, it could have had dire consequences for national security.’
When interviewed by investigators, Major Armstrong said he “transferred the documents to his personal laptop so he could work on them at home…”
The incident reveals something that is not commonly recognized and rarely talked about. Namely, the leak, unauthorized disclosure and/or compromise of military secrets by soldiers inside the military…
I seen it when I was in as well, back in the early 1980’s. When I served in the 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg, N.C. a lower enlisted soldier who served as a communications clerk used to show us material marked “secret”. On numerous occassions he would carry that material off post to get beer and go to strip clubs off post. These revealed codes and procedures relating to radio communications at the company level. He wasn’t a spy he was just stupid. His actions could have compromised the unit.
I also met soldiers in company who shared Special Forces manuals and training materials – which were given during training and kept by the soldiers even after they washed out of the “Q-course” (Qualification course for Special Forces).
Officers in the unit were even more careless, some say reckless about it.
One lower enlisted soldier who had an affair with an officer’s wife in our unit, told me he found “classified” information at the home of our XO or executive officer.
They included material marked both “classified and top secret”.
This incident was never reported out of fear of what military officials at the time might do to him, if they found out the circumstance of how he knew the XO was compromising secrets. The XO was known to the men in the unit as a “heavy drinker, and hard head who had a violent temper and like to push his men hard…”
When you’re a lower enlisted soldier in the military, especially the Army, officers would have literally crucified you for making claims that other officers in the unit were compromising secrets or doing something wrong or inappropriate. There was a clear double standard among the ranks. It was understood that officers couldn’t really be trusted to do right by lower enlisted personnel, so a lot of this kind of stuff was never reported to military authorities.
THE CASE OF PRIVATE BRADLEY MANNING
You also have situations, like the infamous case of Private Bradley Manning who disclosed secrets in order to expose a cover-up by the military of the murder of innocent civilians in Iraq.
Pvt. Manning was subsequently imprisoned (and tortured) for this heroic act.
While the officers in charge, who lied to the public went free and were promoted in some cases…
Pvt. Manning is suspected of leaking hundreds of thousands of documents to the whistleblower website “Wikileaks”. Manning was convicted of leaking a video of a US Apache helicopter firing on civilians in Iraq, including reporters and the people who tried to rescue them (see Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79mUh84nGY0&feature=related and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQ2J8PX3Sdg&feature=related ). This was a cover up (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJik7CjorCk&feature=relmfu ).
TOP SECRET COMPROMISE
“It more common than you might think (meaning the compromise of secrets by members of the military)” says former Army Specialist Matt Jones of Charlotte. “The military will prosecute you to no end if you compromise secrets nowadays, unless your a general officer. Nobody checks the General as he walks out with documents to go home at the end of the day. Staff officers would often time leave base all the times with briefcases and boxes full of secrets and nobody says anything. . You could also check the parking lot of the officers club on base and look at the number of vehicles with briefcases in them that were unlocked. In most cases the officers were inside the officers club getting loaded to the hilt on booze and alcohol…”, he said.
“Officers and enlisted men are treated way different on such matters”, added PFC Mark Jones of Charlotte. “Officers of course have greater access to top secret material, than lower enlisted men and women and they are, generally speaking not treated as harshly as as enlisted personnel. Enlisted are basically prosecuted to the maximum extent possible, while officers may get a talk to by the commander…Its a double standard for sure.”, he said.
Jones said “there need to be greater oversight of some of these materials and officers should be cautioned about taking work home with them”, he said.