Irresponsible intel leaks

SPYBITS - The Philippine Star

The last Senate hearing on the Jan. 25, 2015 Mamasapano massacre was nothing but a rehash of the old testimonies that have been previously made, with nothing really new or explosive, or shocking, disclosed to the Filipino public that patiently listened in via radio and watched it through live streaming from various Internet sources.

But what came across as very disturbing for a lot of observers was the insinuation the Americans were directly involved in the planning and execution of the botched Mamasapano operation, or that the US already knew about the massacre before the other Philippine officials did – something that is totally false and completely malicious. It was not – as some leftists insist – a “joint operation” because for one, no US troops were on hand to participate in the operation to capture Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Filipino bomb expert Abdul Basit Usman.

As US Ambassador Philip Goldberg had explained, the involvement of the United States was all within the bounds of the legal framework agreed upon by both the US and Philippine governments. It’s no secret the US has been providing assistance to help the Philippine government in its fight against terrorism, like what happened when government troops captured notorious Abu Sayyaf terrorist Ghalib Andang alias Commander Robot – who made kidnapping such a lucrative business for himself and the ASG. Besides, it is common practice among governments to exchange intelligence information especially when it comes to transnational crimes such as drug trafficking, gun running and other activities that are also used as sources of funding for terrorist activities. Add to that external security threats which, at this point, our armed forces will find challenging since we are still trying to build up our capabilities, and the AFP has yet to achieve a minimum credible defense posture.

The Visiting Forces Agreement, which has been in existence for more than a decade, allows for US assistance in terms of training (which is why we have the yearly Balikatan exercises) for security, counterterrorism and interoperability purposes. And let’s face it, our closest ally has been instrumental in saving lives during major disasters (think Typhoon Yolanda) and in helping with rehabilitation activities in damaged areas. For those who still conveniently omit whenever they try to criticize and condemn the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement – a key component is humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR).

It’s also rather unfortunate that so-called intel “leaks” about US involvement are being bruited about. We have to remember we are dealing with terrorists here, and any information that gives them an “inside look” could work to their advantage – to the detriment of our forces fighting to contain these terrorists. Many can still remember the furor created by Edward Snowden, a former US government contractor who is believed to have passed on classified information involving the US National Security Agency and the UK government’s Communications HQ. Wikileaks (that organization that relishes releasing information regarding the US government whether verified or not) even gave him financial support to seek asylum to Russia.

While it is true governments should be transparent in their dealings and that the people have a right to know what their government is doing – for instance on how taxes are being spent – it is also clear there are areas where prudence would dictate that some state secrets are better left alone, especially when they involve matters pertaining to national security. A few years ago, an Australian government official condemned Wikileaks for being “incredibly irresponsible” in releasing confidential information that disclosed the identity of intelligence information sources which not only compromised operations, but also the safety of the individuals involved.

“The publication of any information that could compromise Australia’s national security – or inhibit the ability of intelligence agencies to monitor potential threats – is incredibly irresponsible,” the official said. This was echoed by the US Department of State that “strongly condemned” the illegal disclosure of classified information that not only put the security of individuals at great risk, but also harmed US national interest and undermined diplomatic relations.

And while there is such as thing as freedom of information and free press, such freedom also comes with responsibility. Just because we can release information does not mean we should be indiscriminate or disregard the implications on national security, which in the end could prove to be more harmful – rather than beneficial – to the public.

What’s cooking with Erap and Manny Zamora?

At a recent party, businessman Manny Zamora was seen engaged in what appeared to be a very confidential whispering session with former president and current Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada. At some point, Zamora was also seen breaking out into a big smile as if pleased by what he was discussing with the former president.

Shortly thereafter, they were joined by Senator and vice presidential aspirant Alan Peter Cayetano who, many know, is being supported by Zamora. It was quite obvious to many the discussion centered on politics and the upcoming elections. And judging from the satisfied smiles on both Zamora’s and Cayetano’s faces, it would appear they liked what they were hearing from Estrada. But didn’t the former president already publicly declare his endorsement of Senator Bongbong Marcos as vice president for the upcoming May elections?

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