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Op-Ed: What will the United States military do about security risks?

By Samantha A. Torrence     Dec 9, 2010 in Politics
What security measures will the U.S. Military enact now that there have been two low ranking military members discovered leaking classified and sensitive documents to outside sources?
The leak of classified documents has caused quite a stir in America and around the world. While everyone is distracted by the current troubles of Julian Assange, the military is dealing with its own embarrassment. Two military personnel are now responsible for leaking sensitive information. One has succeeded and the other is hoped to have failed. By now most of the public knows of PFC Bradley Manning, who smuggled information to WikiLeaks, but they may not have heard of Petty Officer Brian Martin who was recently caught by the FBI.
Petty Officer Brian Minkyu Martin was taken into custody on December 5, 2010 at Fort Bragg for selling classified documents to an undercover FBI agent. The AP obtained a copy of the unsealed arrest warrant issued by the Navy Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). Martin allegedly sold 53 documents, some secret and some top secret, to the undercover FBI agent posing as foreign intelligence for $3500. The FBI believes that the leak did not get past them.
Manning and Martin were both low ranking military members and both had a certain level of security clearance. The common thread between the two aside from leaking information is that they both had access to computers containing information that was above their security clearance or need-to-know status. The implications of their actions are not only imputable to them, but are also prejudicial to their direct chain of command. Internally the military will be conducting investigations to determine what happened and what could have prevented the leaks.
The recent leaks bring into question the process for obtaining military security clearance as well as the current culture within the military. The security clearance process is rather exhaustive taking into account personal background going back 10 years as well as the psychological motivation for each risk flag. The background checks as they were applied to Manning and Martin are not available to the public due to privacy rules, but could something have been missed? According the the U.K. Telegraph the Pentagon did wonder if there was something amiss on PFC Manning's background check. What is happening on the enlisted level that is turning young military members into spies? The military has so far avoided much scrutiny from the public on this subject while Julian Assange has been in the limelight, but it may be time for the United States to focus internally.
In the released affidavit Martin told the FBI agents that he will be associated with military intelligence for his entire career and hoped to be of value to them over the next 15 to 20 years. He was seeking long term business and financial benefit from the exchange. Now 22 years old, he may face jail time and fines instead of security and prosperity, but as of yet he has not been charged with any crimes. What could cause a young man to risk ruining his life for money and betray the country he has sworn to protect?
Martin and Manning may be the victims of current American and European culture and its clashing values with the Military culture. Both young men are firmly considered to be in what researchers call “Generation Me.” This generation may pose a bit of difficulty for seasoned military officers that are used to a 'Good Ole Boy' type of fraternity of respect for authority. As Major Art Finch points out, Generation Me is a whole new animal. In an article on the Army website Finch relates to the author Don Kramer what sets soldiers born since the 1980’s apart from their older counterparts and what motivates them.
The reflex of Soldiers of those generations (X and Y), Finch said, is to disdain authority, demand their right to a variety of self-expression modes, tattoos among them, and to expect praise for merely showing up for duty.
"They don't just question authority; they flat-out disrespect it entirely," he said. "You really have to earn their respect. It will not come automatically just because of (your) rank or title."
Finch characterized this group as stubborn, isolated, unapologetically profane and direct to the point of bluntness. Approval from peer-groups is usually more important than from authority figures, even their families.
These young Soldiers often respond to directives by asking "Why?"
"And they really see nothing wrong with asking that question," Finch said, even in a military setting.
Researchers have found that Generations X and Y are both afflicted with an epidemic of narcissism which may be the reason for the current attitudes, but how did they develop this narcissism? Partly it is believed to be from their parents and grandparents. The 1960’ and 1970’s gave birth to a new way of thinking and it affected not only that entire generation but made its way into schools, colleges, and the home further influence future generations. The humanist movement in psychology pioneered by Benjamin Spock taught a permissive approach to child rearing and involved less solid discipline. This permissiveness, some accused, also lead to the mindset of instant gratification that is a common accusation lobbed against society today.
PFC Manning may be a different subject when it comes to the possibility of narcissism. As Major Finch relates, gaining the respect of people in "Generation Me" is no easy task. Older NCO’s and Officers may find dealing with this generation exhausting, and the clash in mindsets could lead to real problems.
Throwing someone who has been told his or her entire life that he or she is special, praise worthy, perfect, and above reproach into a military culture is a volatile combination. Basic training itself will cause a rift between the soldier and the authority. In basic training a military member is “broken down” and remolded to fit within the military collective. That process may be nearly impossible to complete with a strong willed and egocentric individual. If a person is seen not to conform and adhere to the rules there is no end of humiliation and punishment for the individual. The tension from this scenario in an all-volunteer military may lead to rash actions against a chain of command.
Before the theft and release of the original Afghan documents PFC Manning is reported to have posted disparaging remarks about the Army on his Facebook page. The remarks came after he broke up with his girlfriend and is said to have slipped into a depression.
From the Telegraph:
Manning, who is half-British, frequently complained about the Army via his Facebook page, The Daily Telegraph reports. His status updates included comments saying he was "beyond frustrated" and "Bradley Manning is not a piece of equipment."
He also quipped that the phrase "military intelligence" is an oxymoron.
His comments seem to suggest he felt undervalued and perhaps exasperated with his immediate culture in the military.
So how does the military combat the denigration of its culture and maintain the security of its information? The old dogs will have to evolve and learn how best to utilize the strengths of the new pups. They will also need to find a few better collars and leashes. Dirk Zwart of Open Web Developers suggests “bullet proof” lock down on security by banning anything that even remotely resembles a USB device or disk. Increased security near secure computers may be just the choke chain needed to catch what a background security screening fails to find.
In the end the military will conduct its own internal investigations, and determine the motivations of Manning and Martin. It will close this security gap as much as possible and move on. But until then how many more leaks will occur, and what will America do about them?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Military, Brian martin, Bradley Manning, Generation, Military culture
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