by baldilocks

The little guys have to follow the rules; the Big Guys and Girls, not so much.

The Army is booting out a 13-year public affairs sergeant for including in an unclassified government email the same information about a special operations unit and Osama bin Laden found on Army.mil web pages.

The irony in the narrative of Staff Sgt. Ricardo Branch is that his motive was to keep classified material away from public view.

His disclosure in a private Army email is also the same information as told by his commander in chief, Barack Obama, in May 2011 when the president visited Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to personally thank the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), or “Night Stalkers,” for its critical role in killing al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

And, the transgression of Sgt. Branch, 34, is, on its face, far less serious than that of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who faced no punishment for keeping classified data on her personal unsecured server.

(Emphasis mine; commas added.)

Free Beacon:

The sergeant needs a jar of this.

The incident occurred in February 2014, when Branch, then a public affairs officer for the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), reviewed a proposed article by Boeing for the company’s internal news service[.]

The article discussed SOAR personnel visiting a Boeing unit in Mesa, Arizona, and revealed the regiment’s role in transporting Navy SEAL Team 6 to Pakistan for the 2011 raid to kill Osama bin Laden. Branch reportedly recognized that the Pentagon had never officially acknowledged SOAR’s role in the bin Laden operation and emailed his superior saying Boeing should delete the sentence.

Branch also wrote the sentence in an official .mil email.

Because Branch forwarded the sentence, which contained sensitive information, in an unclassified email, an investigation was launched and he was ordered home.

A superior officer had seen the email and notified Army intelligence. About two months later, Branch agreed to a nonjudicial punishment known as an Article 15 hearing, during which he received an oral reprimand and thought the matter was done.

The Army transferred Branch to South Korea. But then the service in 2015, pressured by budget cuts, sought to reduce personnel and identified blemished soldiers through the Quantitative Management Program. Branch was identified as a blemished soldier because his Article 15 resulted in a one-time poor performance evaluation, and the investigation was relaunched.

Branch received high marks on all prior and subsequent performance reviews, according to the [Washington]Times.

This sort of travesty furthers my suspicions that a vast Coconut Treatment—a hollowing out of all seemingly reliable institutions—is nearing its conclusion. By the way, if the Army forces Sgt. Branch out, he will probably receive a discharge that is other than honorable. This will make it very difficult for him to find employment and he won’t be able to receive any VA benefits which would have, otherwise, been his due.

I’m hoping that there’s something more to this story, but I’ll bet that there isn’t. And if I were this guy, I’d do what he’s doing—making it public—and then get out anyway.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel tentatively titled Arlen’s Harem, will be done on April 2017! Follow her on Twitter and on Gab.ai.

Please contribute to Juliette’s JOB:  Her new novel, her blog, her Internet to keep the latter going and COFFEE to keep her going!

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donthinkYou know he’s right…

Confidential. Secret. Top Secret. We hear these terms thrown around concerning Hillary Clinton’s emails. But what do they really mean? If you don’t handle classified information (and most of you don’t), it’s hard to understand the impact of losing classified materials. Worse, most security people aren’t going to comment on it, and aren’t even allowed to visit sites like Wikileaks.

To attempt to demonstrate the damage disclosure can have, let’s use a football analogy. Imagine you’re a college football coach and play against other rival teams in your conference. You are trying to keep your plays and recruiting strategy hidden from the other teams, who are trying to figure these out in order to beat you. By the way, you’re doing your own spying on them as well.

fantasyfootball

Confidential information is classified information that if revealed would cause damage. In our analogy, imagine if a rival coach got ahold of your weekly schedule while you were recruiting. He could see where you were traveling and who you were meeting, which he could use to craft a better deal to try and steal those people away from you. But if he only had a one-week schedule, it might damage your recuriting, but only for a limited time.

weeklycalendar
Recruiting in the south huh….not a chance!

Secret information would cause serious damage if revealed. If one of your players used a hidden video camera to tape a rival teams practice and key plays, that would give you a massive advantage over them. Not only that, but it would take some time for the team to build new plays, practice them and roll them out, which allows your team to pummel them during the season.

footballpracticeTriple option? Nobody uses that!

Top Secret information causes grave damage if revealed, and is often used to protect “sources and means.” In our example, imagine if we had hidden a wireless video camera that was capturing our rival teams every practice. If the rival team discovers that we have a video of one practice, they might not know about the hidden camera, just that someone at some point took a video. They might spend time building higher fences or trying to conduct practice at night, even though none of those actions block our hidden camera, because they only had access to our Secret information.

hiddencamera
Yup, keep building those walls higher…

But, if they discovered the existence of the hidden video camera, that would be really bad. First, it probably took us a lot of time and money to hide the camera, which is now wasted. Worse, what if our rival team is really cagey? They could run a fake practice where their team uses lineups that they know will make it into our hands, only to use different ones during an actual game. Their knowledge of the source of the information makes it Top Secret and gravely damages our ability to win a football game.

There is one more type of classified information called a Special Access Program. SAP is so sensitive that there is a separate access list for who can access the information. In fact, SAP may be so protected that unless the program manager tells you about it, you won’t even know it exists, and not even know its cover name.

specialaccessNext thing you’ll tell me is that it costs millions of dollars…

A football SAP would be if you as coach had a rival player that you were paying off to pass information about that rival team. You wouldn’t risk telling your players about it. If your rival coach figured it out, the player could be banned and you could face expulsion from the conference and get fired. Disclosure would be catastrophic and cost you dearly.

So while the loss of any classified hurts, there is a scale for it. Confidential hurts in the short term, Secret a lot more, and Top Secret and SAP will almost definitely get people killed and cost millions of taxpayer dollars to fix. So when Snowden sells our Top Secret information to the Russians, he is not just a traitor, but he is costing you and every other taxpayer millions of dollars for the intelligence community to try and rebuild new access.

When the breach consists of multiple thousands of emails, containing information ranging all the way up to SAP and was caused by gross negligence, yes, you should be angry.


This post solely represents the view of the author and does not represent the official views of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other branch of the US government. It also doesn’t contain any classified information, unlike some people’s emails floating around on the Internet.


If you liked this, you might like reading my thoughts on Darth Vader, and maybe even buy my Kids Book on the Navy.

disillusionedby baldilocks

It’s an odd feeling to begin to believe that you wasted your youth. It’s what I’m beginning to believe about my own.

Back when I was a skinny little critter, I wasn’t popping out illegitimate babies or selling/smoking weed or selling/shooting heroin or streetwalking or being a groupie to sports/pop music icons. I spent my youth as an enlisted woman in the USAF, and held a compartmented security clearance during the last “battles” of the Cold War.

We won, they tell me.

My DD Form 214—Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty—states that I had these two specialties (jobs): 1) Germanic Crypto Linguist, and 2) Slavic Crypto Linguist, Russian. Long-term training is required for the languages alone; that part comes first. Then there’s the second part of the training, the classified part–the part which one doesn’t even get to experience if something icky is uncovered in the background check. (When that happens, the person is pulled out of training altogether and, if they are lucky, they’re assigned another specialty. Unluckiness gets one kicked out.)

In this other part of the training, we learned all about our security clearances, how to handle classified information, the penalties for mishandling classified information, and what to do when mistakes are made. This very pertinent information is instilled and measured–tested–before any sensitive information is revealed to us.

It isn’t rocket science and, if I recall correctly, it takes only a few days. Most of us had high school diplomas only or a bit of “higher” education and very few of us were over 25 years old. It’s true, however, that we qualified for the specialty because of our measured high ability to remember when to breathe and remember when not to.

After that, there was the job itself. Stressful at times, but the great thing about it was that we knew why we were doing it and we knew who our enemies were–or so it seemed at the time. And after the victory was won, it was comforting to have been a tiny part of that.

Again, so it seemed at the time.

It was good for my personal self-respect to know that I was capable of loyalty and able to keep a secret—and not just because I would go to jail if I didn’t, but because I had given my word. These days, this is called adulting.

There are a few who held the linguist specialty who broke their word; the one referenced in the link defected to East Germany, had to spend some time in prison and, poetically just, is stateless. (Allegedly, he’s here in the USA and is, I guess, just another illegal alien.)

The rest of us are proud of what we achieved…but, as I look at the Labor Day weekend sub rosa news, I wonder whether we really achieved anything.

Hillary Clinton, wife of a former US President, a former US Senator, a former US Secretary of State, and the 2016 Democrat Party nominee for US President herself, has blatantly and openly violated everything for which I and many of my oldest, dearest friends stood.

But she hasn’t been charged with any of the TENS OF THOUSANDS security clearance breaches which she knowingly and willfully committed. She says that she can’t remember anything about it.

My black ass.

And the worst thing is that the investigative arm of this government admits it and will do nothing. She won’t serve time for treason or spend any time stateless. And she knew that long ago, knew before the first server was planted in her house. And now, so do we.

I should have spent the 1980s smoking weed.

BTW: Day 25 of not smoking anything.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel will be done in 2016. Follow her on Twitter.

Please contribute to Juliette’s JOB:  Her new novel, her blog, her Internet to keep the latter going and COFFEE to keep her going!

Or hit Da Tech Guy’s Tip Jar in the name of Independent Journalism—->>>>>baldilocks