Why it’s important to keep spies in the dark about leaks



You can’t keep a bad bah humbug from plying its trade online. It’s just a fact of life.

“More damaging information is revealed every day about government wrongdoing,” says Alexander Rush, one of the other authors of the 2017 expose on the government’s use of social media to keep tabs on whistleblower whistleblowers, The Whistle Blowers Report. “Overseers hunt each other down to glean more damaging information.”

Overseers of covert data, especially those within the federal government, are more likely to expose secrets as well, says Rush, who spent 20 years in intelligence and government counterterrorism missions and remains undercover. “Because covert intelligence activities are supposed to be so cloak-and-dagger, spies were excited to see the evidence spill into the public eye.”

And now they’re much more likely to do it, thanks to a type of social media called “crowdsourcing,” in which anonymous online audiences probe by letting their imaginations run wild, in a reaction to an ostensible insider threat.

While urging citizens to protect themselves from these anonymous findings, the authors also ponder the risk posed by state-run “bulletproof” efforts to cope with the anonymous web, and what a special counsel’s investigation of the Trump administration, which is expected to delve into social media, could mean for tech giants such as Facebook, Twitter and Google.

What was once regarded as frivolous activity has become “a publicly visible exercise in protectionism,” says Maureen Camfield, who co-authored the book with Rush and Blew the Whistle.

“Leaks are important,” she says. “Anonymity ensures transparency. The investigations we do as guardians of democracy enable us to hold agencies accountable and prevent them from doing more harm.”

(c)2018 The Washington Post. Excerpted with permission.

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