This morning, the New York Times brought us another breathtaking expose of classified national security information which is really important for the public to know because…um, well, because they just kind of felt like it.
The story is about a contractor for an international shipping company who was captured and held hostage by rebels in Yemen before being released last year. Without the man’s permission or cooperation, the New York Times gives out details of his capture and imprisonment, his name, his age, his exact job description with the shipping company, and the location where his wife and children lived at the time (none of which I will repeat here).
Some of this might certainly be of interest to bad actors in the Middle East. But why would any of it be of interest to the American public? Ah, because, “while helping coordinate aid for Unicef and the Red Cross [he] also had a second, secret role: He was shipping materials for elite military commandos under a clandestine contract his employer had with the Pentagon.”
The implication is that the US military is using humanitarian aid as a cover for shipping supplies to our special forces. Except it turns out the report doesn’t quite support this. Here is the shipping company’s own description of itself: “The company says it delivers ‘vital cargo worldwide on time and intact for humanitarian relief, defense and peacekeeping missions, and reconstruction projects.'” “Humanitarian relief” and “defense” are right there together, so it’s not like they’re exactly making a secret of it. From the rest of the New York Times report, it looks like the poor fellow they’re writing about was not some hotshot super-spy but just a guy who did paperwork to grease the wheels for shipping deliveries at Yemeni ports. So it would be natural that he would work on both the “humanitarian relief” shipments and the “defense” ones.
But the Times report stretches every detail in an attempt to make this look like some kind of nefarious conspiracy, including the fact that when news came out that the contractor had been captured, “No mention was made of his secret work with the military.” Gee, I wonder why nobody would announce that information while the guy is being held and tortured by militants? Must be some kind of cover-up.
You will search in vain through this report for a rationale to explain why it was necessary to tell the story at all, much less in such detail. Except I guess that “the arrangement with Special Operations forces has never been made public.” You get the impression that the New York Times has started publishing classified information just because they can.
Here’s their description of the factual basis for the report.
Six former and current United States officials confirmed the military’s secret contract with Transoceanic, describing only its broad contours and only on the condition of anonymity because the details are highly classified. Spokesmen for the Pentagon and the military’s Special Operations and Central Commands, as well as Transoceanic, declined to respond to written questions, citing the matter’s classification. The Pentagon also refused to disclose details of the vetting that contractors undergo before they work with Special Operations forces overseas. [The contractor] refused to answer questions about his ordeal or relationship with the American military.
Given that the information is “highly classified” and that nobody seems to want to talk about it, you would think the New York Times would have to have some compelling rationale before they decided to reveal it to the world. Instead, the only reason seems to be to bolster a junior Democratic congressman’s vague complaint that “There is not enough oversight.”
Meanwhile, the report itself states the potential damage: “arrangements like the one Transoceanic had with Special Operations forces can cast suspicion over aid workers, potentially putting them in harm’s way.” Sure, and so can publishing classified information about it and pushing headlines that exaggerate the connection. I’m sure a lot of humanitarian aid workers across the world will really appreciate the target the New York Times just put on their backs.
The report also notes that this “can jeopardize humanitarian efforts in countries that depend on relief organizations.” It goes on to quote a diplomat who adds: “The bottom line is there aren’t a lot of companies willing and able to provide those kind of necessary services in a place like Yemen.” And now there are going to be even fewer of them. The poor fellow whose name and information they just splashed over their pages is certainly never going to be able to do that kind of work again.
The whole report is inexplicable, and you get the sense that the reporters just wanted to tell a splashy, thriller-like story. Except that there’s a larger pattern: it has become acceptable to open the floodgates of classified information because Trump. This is the same paper that just outed the CIA bureau chief for Iran, citing as their rationale that he was “leading an important new administration initiative against Iran.” In a sane universe, that would be the reason not to report it.
This is more evidence that the election of Donald Trump has broken something in the American left. The same people who style themselves “The Resistance” have decided to treat the entire administration as an enemy country and appoint themselves as a freelance intelligence agency dedicated to revealing its secrets. They are placing partisan enmity, the desire to find or make trouble for the current administration wherever they can, above the interests and national security of their own country.