Brandon’s recent interview with Dalton Fury got me thinking again about a subject I had been meaning to write about for a while. The issue is about leaks, public disclosures, and individuals (including former military) writing books. The issue of OPSEC is brought up again and again. Likewise, many people rail against this new media phenomena saying that no one can keep a secret anymore.
But is this really something new, or is it just something new to us?
Insider leaks about unseemly activities conducted by our government? The Pentagon Papers hit the New York Times in 1971. Also in the 1970s came revelations from people like Chris Pyle and Seymour Hersh that eventually led to the Church Committee hearings, which probed illegal activity conducted by the CIA and other agencies. Let’s also not forget about the “Deep Throat” leaks, which led to the Watergate scandal and culminated in the resignation of President Nixon.
Former Special Operations guys writing books? This is far from being anything new. Over a dozen LRRP/Rangers wrote their memoirs after the Vietnam War. Soldier of Fortune magazine also published many first hand accounts from soldiers in the Vietnam War. Steve Emerson’s book “Secret Warriors” blew the lid off America’s growing counter-terrorism infrastructure when it was published in 1988. To this day, when I bring up subjects written about in “Secret Warriors,” people often to tell me to shut up due to OPSEC concerns, not realizing that this information has been in the public domain for over a quarter century.
Hell, the founder of Delta Force, Charlie Beckwith, wrote his memoir in 1983, a mere three years after the debacle at Desert One. It’s a great book that I highly recommend. My first edition has lots of passages underlined and many notes in the margins.
Not only is the phenomena not new, but the fact that former soldiers write books isn’t a bad thing, either. One of the major deficiencies in SOF (and I suspect much of the military) is that After Action Reviews are not shared between units and between generations of soldiers. The only reason why I learned about the hunt for Bin Laden in Afghanistan is because Dalton Fury wrote Kill Bin Laden. I never would have learned about what went wrong during Operation Gothic Serpent in Somalia if not for reading Bowden’s Black Hawk Down, a book written after consulting with former Delta Operator Paul Howe.
It is unfortunate that lessons learned do not migrate in a more fluid manner throughout SOF, but I assure you that, when I was in the 75th Ranger Regiment and Special Forces, we were never sat down and briefed on these matters. I’m not saying every Ranger Battalion private should be read on to every classified JSOC operation, but there are still many opportunities to pass down lessons learned. It happens today only in an ad-hoc manner, or by reading books and articles that are open source.
When Matt Bissonnette wrote about the Bin Laden raid I spoke out against it, saying that it was too much, too soon. I still feel that way. There is a fine line between sharing and violating the trust of our teammates and our country. Perhaps it is not my place to try to draw that line, but I know that I’m thankful that many of these guys have put pen to paper. I’m a lot wiser for it.
If those LRRP/Rangers in Vietnam had never told their story, then me and many others never would have wanted to become Rangers to begin with.
Author of Reflexive Fire, Target Deck, and Direct Action
Managing Editor at SOFREP
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