Whether it’s the New York Times, CNN or Newsweek, the corrupt media think they have the right to weaken national security by publishing military secrets. Newsweek’s recent report on military contingency plans in event of a breakdown of order during the coronavirus crisis was just the latest case of a journalist arrogating to himself the power of life and death. Nothing pisses me off more, so I wrote about it in my latest column for Real Clear Politics.
National Security Dies in Sunshine
By Frank Miele
Sometimes it feels like I’m the last journalist in America who cares about national security. Not studies it. Not writes about it. But actually cares about protecting the national security of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
Of course, I know that’s not true, but too many journalists have granted themselves extraordinary, unregulated power to put the United States at risk by seeking out and publishing information that strengthens and emboldens our enemies. As evidence, I present the recent “exclusive” report from Newsweek titled “Inside the Military’s Top Secret Plans if Coronavirus Cripples the Government.”
When I first read it, the immediate question in my mind was, “If it’s top secret, how and why is it being reported by Newsweek?” There have always been secrets in government, especially military secrets, but there has not always been a press that is unfettered by loyalty, patriotism and common sense in its pursuit of “the story.”
Now, however, that is the standard. I myself will be labeled a traitor to my profession for questioning the “right” of Newsweek to publish sensitive material that could greatly diminish our national security. Readers, too, have been conditioned by decades of stories disclosing “top secret” information to casually accept leaks by anonymous sources as a necessity to keep a leash on our government Rather than blindly accept this premise, I want you to ask yourself three questions:
- Are you safer if military secrets remain secret or if they are made public?
- Who benefits by the work of the American media to expose military secrets?
- What should happen to those who betray the nation’s secrets?
The answer to the first question, for many journalists, is that the republic is always safer with more transparency. “Democracy dies in darkness,” the Washington Post has famously proclaimed on its front page since early 2017.
No doubt, an informed citizenry is vital to the healthy functioning of the democratic republic enshrined by the U.S. Constitution. It is important to know if our government is lying to us, for instance in the FISA abuse scandal, but that is not the end of the story. We must also acknowledge that an informed enemy is detrimental to the continued survival of any nation. All information, therefore, is not equal. That is the simple explanation why some information is classified and restricted.
Yet in his March 18 Newsweek story, author William M. Arkin acts as though he has a perfect right on his own to declassify the most sensitive information about military preparedness during the coronavirus pandemic:
“Above-Top Secret contingency plans already exist for what the military is supposed to do if all the Constitutional successors are incapacitated. Standby orders were issued more than three weeks ago to ready these plans, not just to protect Washington but also to prepare for the possibility of some form of martial law.
“According to new documents and interviews with military experts, the various plans – codenamed Octagon, Freejack and Zodiac – are the underground laws to ensure government continuity. They are so secret that under these extraordinary plans, ‘devolution’ could circumvent the normal Constitutional provisions for government succession, and military commanders could be placed in control around America.”
This is not just potentially embarrassing information, like some whistleblower data, but rather information about the very survival of our republic. If democracy is going to die in this case, it is much more likely to happen because Newsweek shined a light on secret plans to protect our national leadership than because those plans were top secret.
Moreover, as the nation faced a crisis of unknown proportions with COVID-19 in early March, Arkin felt no compunction about revealing how the U.S. military was planning troop movements:
“Mission essential in this regard applies to the maze of more than a dozen different secret assignments, most of them falling under three larger contingency plans:
“CONPLAN 3400, or the military’s plan for ‘homeland defense,’ if America itself is a battlefield.
“CONPLAN 3500, ‘defense support of civil authorities,’ where the military assists in an emergency short of armed attack on the nation.
“CONPLAN 3600, military operations in the National Capital Region and continuation of government, under which the most-secret plans to support continuity are nested.”
Again, either these plans are secret, or they are not, and if they are secret, then why do we blithely accept the willingness of Newsweek to report on them? Arkin assures us that on Feb. 1, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper “Secretly … signed Warning Orders (the WARNORD as it’s called) alerting NORTHCOM and a host of east coast units to ‘prepare to deploy’ in support of potential extraordinary missions. Seven secret plans — some highly compartmented — exist to prepare for these extraordinary missions.”
Arkin describes the seven “secret” plans, not in detail but in specificity, and regarding the seventh plan that “lays out the playbook for extraordinary domestic missions that involve weapons of mass destruction,” he brags about the fact that he had previously “disclosed the existence of this plan in 2005, and its associated ‘national mission force’ — a force that is on alert at all times, even in peacetime, to respond to a terrorist attack or threat with the nuclear weapon.”
It is obvious that Arkin thinks he has the right to know about and to write about the secrets of the U.S. government and our military, and thus to take into his own hands the safety of our people. He has written a book called “American Coup,” which paints the contingency plans to ensure “continuity of government” during times of crisis as a threat to the Constitution.
At the end of his Newsweek article, Arkin goes further:
“The plans state that the government continues essential functions under all circumstances, even if that is with the devolved second string or under temporary military command. One of the ‘national essential functions,’ according to Federal Continuity Directive 1 is that the government ‘provid[e] leadership visible to the Nation and the world … [while] maintaining the trust and confidence of the American people.’ The question is whether a faceless elite could ever provide that confidence, preserving government command but also adding to public panic. That could be a virus too.”
That condescending tone — calling the heroes who work to preserve our country in time of crisis a “faceless elite” — says it very clearly. Arkin, and those who support him with their silence, are willing to forego an American future and are willing to sabotage efforts to ensure we will have one.
Who benefits from this kind of reporting? Not the military. Not the president. Not the American people, who have entrusted their safety and security to the military and the president. The only winners are foreign nations that have a vested interest in having reporters do their dirty work for them. Why hire spies when you can just let the American media, under the protection of the First Amendment, solicit leaks from deep within the military and intelligence infrastructure and publish them to the world?
Somewhat incongruously, as a nation we have decided that it is illegal for government agents to distribute state secrets but not for reporters to receive them and then to publish them. Unfortunately, the federal government seems to be incapable of sealing the leaks that have become pandemic in their scope. But if we agree that there are legitimate reasons for information to be restricted in the first place, then we need to have the national will to root out and punish leakers. Based on the number of leaks published, there should be at least one leaker going to jail every day.
Does that seem extreme? Then let’s have an open-source government and see how that works out. I’m sure that would suit Newsweek just fine — and our enemies, too.
DID YOU KNOW?
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