Technology has disrupted the Leak Tradition

Are instant leaks, using encrypted messaging apps, expanding the deep state beyond shadowy CIA operatives?

Early in episode four of Showtime’s “Homeland”, an angry President-elect Elizabeth Keane (Elizabeth Marvel) faces CIA Director Dar Adal (F. Murray Abraham) and says, “if you think it’s wise to tie the President’s hands so publicly, what’s not wise is peddling unverified and politically motivated horseshit to the press. And if you can’t find me the ‘career officers’ responsible, I’ll get someone who can”.

Pure synchronicity. Since, at the time of the airing, President Trump was facing a similar situation that would lead to the termination of his National Security advisor, Michael T. Flynn.

Not since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy has the mainstream media been so focused on the deep state.

“’’Deep state’ has historically been associated with countries like Turkey, where sophisticated shadow governments allegedly control or influence key aspects of state policy,” notes Amanda Taub in the New York Times. Winston Churchill referred to the state within the state as the “High Cabal”.

Technology has disrupted the leak tradition. Completely transformed it, in fact, with a mobile app called Confide.

“Confide launched in 2013 as a secure app for executives looking to trade gossip and talk shop without creating a digital trail. The service uses a proprietary encryption protocol, what the company describes as ‘military-grade end-to-end encryption’.” (Wired, February 15, 2015)

In the new ‘sharing’ world, rogue whistleblowers inside the intelligence and defense agencies using apps like Confide, can with a touch of a button leak more data than Daniel Ellsberg and his Pentagon Papers, which required 48 banker boxes to deliver.

On the receiving end, news outlets feel free to publish leaked documents. They consider it newsworthy simply because they are official documents or transcripts. Since it arrives instantaneously, they rush to be the first to publish it — often with disclaimers like ‘the allegations have not been confirmed or verified’.

Too many reporters want to be the next Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein of the Watergate scandal. They won’t be satisfied unless, like Woodward and Bernstein, they bring down the President — a president who expresses total contempt for their work.

We must questions the ethics of whistle blowing and leaks.

“In this new era of mobile phones with built-in cameras and encrypted messaging, no president can conduct private negotiations with world leaders without fearing that private conversations will appear in the press”

Should anyone who has classified documents about a controversial government official or policy be allowed — or obligated — to leak that information?

Bloomberg View columnist Eli Lake notes, “in normal times, the idea that U.S. officials entrusted with our most sensitive secrets would selectively disclose them to undermine the White House would alarm those worried about creeping authoritarianism.”

Are instant leaks, using encrypted messaging apps, expanding the deep state beyond shadowy CIA operatives or NSA officials? And what about unconfirmed leaks? Bloomberg’s Eli Lake continues, “but that’s all these allegations are at this point: unanswered questions. It’s possible that Flynn has more ties to Russia that he had kept from the public and his colleagues. It’s also possible that a group of national security bureaucrats and former Obama officials are selectively leaking highly sensitive law enforcement information to undermine the elected government.”

Then there’s this question for reporters and the media. What do you do with an incoming leak that has not been confirmed? Is it still ‘news’? The deep state has always had a semiotic relationship with the press. But reporters Woodward and Bernstein clocked hundreds of hours confirming their investigations, with the help of Deep Throat, FBI Associate Director Mark Felt.

In this new era of mobile phones with built-in cameras and encrypted messaging, no president can conduct private negotiations with world leaders without fearing that private conversations will appear in the press. From Eli Lake, “imagine if intercepts of a call between Obama’s incoming national security adviser and Iran’s foreign minister leaked to the press before the nuclear negotiations began? The howls of indignation would be deafening.”

Which brings us to President Trump, the nemesis of most mainstream media.

From his last news conference, Trump said “I inherited a mess.”

He’s learned what all previous presidents have learned. He’s not alone. There’s a parallel deep state, which over the last fifty years has influenced and sometimes conducted the military and diplomatic affairs of the nation. From the disastrous Cuban Bay of Pigs operation to the Vietnam War, the deep state has often undermined the chief elected executive officer.

President Trump knew this from the onset of his successful campaign. So, he is fully aware that the deep state can also be deadly.