A few months ago I wrote a blog on how disclosing military secrets is harmful to national security, focusing on the military members who have chosen to talk. A new book has been released, and while I don’t agree with anyone who decided to play Deep Throat, in this blog I’d like to take a look at this journalist’s lack of responsibility.
The book is called Relentless Strike, by Canadian Sean Naylor, and it purports to be an accurate history of the Joint Special Operations Command. I’ve excoriated the press on multiple occasions, but at least then, with Glenn Greenwald, Seymour Hersh or Julian Assange, I understood the purpose: They have a massive agenda to actively harm our national security apparatus. In this case, I can’t fathom why Naylor decided to write this book, other than his unbridled ego and his penchant to be viewed as an insider, as seen when he brags that he’s been told that Fort Bragg, “is going ape shit over your book”.
In interviews, Naylor states that to his knowledge, he wasn’t given any classified information, but that’s absolute hogwash. Does he honestly believe that none of this story was classified? And does he not understand that – regardless of the veracity or lack thereof – it will have implications on our ability to operate? Does Canada hate the US that much? Then again, maybe he’s just too naive to realize the harm. In a podcast, he actually compares the impact of his reporting to that of a sports reporter digging for dirt on an NFL team. Because, you know, it’s the NFL that keeps us safe at night. In 2011, while dissecting another story that was full of untruths, I showed that once something is printed, the damage is already done.
He goes on to state that he “trusted my sources not to give me information for publication as experts with a stake in the matter that know what would be dangerous”, which I find utterly preposterous for two reasons: A) If someone is talking to him, violating the Non Disclosure Statements they signed with the full knowledge that he’s writing an unauthorized book, clearly they don’t have the capacity for reason to determine what’s damaging, and B) He, as the journalist, is the one who is taking all the bits and pieces and painting the picture. Deep Throat A may say one thing, thinking it’s not harmful, then Deep Throat B, then C and D. All just gave a snippet – after all, what could be the harm? Naylor takes all of the snippets and puts the puzzle together in such a way that all four are shocked at the results. While the Deep Throats are doing damage – maybe even unwittingly, although that’s not an excuse – it’s the journalist who bears the ultimate responsibility.
Naylor states that he “personally kept information out of the book that I thought might pose a risk to specific individuals if published”. Let’s take a look at that for a second. What, at the very basic level, would create the most risk for an American Soldier, and by extension, his family? What one piece of information? Hmmm…why, it would be the soldier’s true name, and for some unfathomable reason, Naylor did just that over and over again.
I remember the anger around the country when the administration released the unit that killed Usama bin Laden, with some even proposing that THAT leak directly led to the targeting of a helicopter in Afghanistan, killing all aboard. Imagine the outrage if the administration had not only released the unit, but the names of the individuals in that unit and the operations they’d conducted. That’s what this book does on about every single page. Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with what he’s published. It’s just like a book on the NFL.
He’s supposedly a journalist, so I’m assuming he’s seen the jihadi call from ISIS to behead US service members. Since the book is about JSOC, it’s unreasonable to assume he doesn’t know of the recent raid against the Islamic State where a financier was killed and his wife captured. Does he not think that every name in the book will now be tied by association? Now they and their families have a giant bullseye on their heads. Does he really not believe that some wanna be jihadist with computer skills isn’t diligently scouring the internet, looking to build a target list, like the one they released before? Maybe he feels that’s too far fetched. But surely he’s heard about the massive Chinese hack of our OPM database, where the trove of SF 86 security questionnaires were taken. Right now, they’re currying through that information looking for matches to identify government officials and where they work, and he just gave them a golden ticket in the form of a name. Does he not think they aren’t collating every name he mentioned, then pulling up every SF 86 with those names, looking for patterns? And when they find those patterns – say the same office code or investigator – they’ll go back, using those patterns instead of names. Guess what they’re going to find then? Does Naylor think they’re too stupid to make associations? Yeah, it’s damaging all right, and for the life of me I can’t understand why he didn’t just use initials, or change them outright. Why would that have harmed the “integrity” of the book?
Speaking of the book’s integrity, yours truly is named outright. On page 123 there’s this sentence: “…led by Major Brad Taylor HALO’d in northeast of Kandahar to call in air strikes against Taliban and/or al Qaeda targets fleeing southwest from Kabul…” It then goes on to describe the death defying feat and incredible prowess of the super team, of which I was the fearless leader.
But maybe it’s another Brad Taylor. Maybe I’m just confused. Nope. Here’s an email exchange between me and the intrepid reporter from two years ago:
From: Sean Naylor <email@example.com>
Sent: Friday, November 1, 2013 11:48 AM
I am just checking in with you again to see if your circumstances have changed and you might be able to talk to me on background for my book. I am particularly keen to learn more about your HALO mission in November 2001 (the one in which XX got hurt). I’d be willing to come down to Charleston.
I hope all is well with you and wish you congratulations on the continuing success of your own literary career.
From: Brad Taylor <btaylorXX@yahoo.com>
To: Sean Naylor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Friday, November 1, 2013 1:00 PM
Subject: Re: Double-checking
Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, I’m unable to discuss any operational actions I might have knowledge of. I’m afraid those circumstances won’t change for about 25 years, when they might be declassified under the security review guidelines.
Sorry, but thank you for the well-wishes.
So clearly, he’s talking about me. Guess what? He’s wrong. I don’t know who the Deep Throat was that gave him the information, but I have never once participated in a parachute operation in Afghanistan. Maybe the guy who gave him my name made up the whole thing. I’ll leave it up to you to determine the accuracy of the rest of the book.
Naylor states that he took measures to protect a source’s identity, and would never intentionally put them at risk, but I guess that’s only if you decided to talk to him. If you do what’s correct, the vindictive little shit puts a bullseye on your back. Like I said, it’s irrelevant whether it’s true or not. The damage is done – and that’s for even the ones he thinks he’s “protected”, as the Chinese will soon know them as well – along with anyone they consider worthy of the information. Unless, of course, he means he’s just protecting them from US prosecution for breaking their oath of confidentiality and he doesn’t really care about US security.
Naylor stated that keeping JSOC under wraps is “no longer realistic”. I guess he believes that in the information age it’s just going to come out anyway, so he might as well make a buck providing our enemies all the dots to connect. Maybe he’s got a point – I mean, after all, the Chinese hacked the information. All he did was help them collate it, but for me the statement is the same as saying keeping child porn off the Internet is “no longer realistic”. Even if true, it doesn’t make the pedophile any better.
As for all the Deep Throats who talked on “background”, I hope you can sleep at night, especially the jerk who gave Naylor incorrect information about me. Naylor said sources talked to him because they felt that “my guys or my buddies deserve recognition.” Clearly, since I refused to talk to him, that statement is not a reflection of my desires, and yet he printed my name anyway.
Thanks for the recognition, asshole.
Update 9 November 2016
I was just informed that the paperback edition of Relentless Strike has been edited, removing any mention of me conducting a HALO operation. Guess the publisher read this blog. I suppose that’s one way to vet a non-fiction book for veracity. Small victories!
Apparently he doesn’t understand the term “Quiet Professionals.” No recognition desired, other than knowing a job was well done.
I agree with everything you said. I did notice that you didn’t question the legality of his actions, just (correctly) the ethics, intelligence, honesty, motivations, and whatever other descriptors I’ve left out.
However, he isn’t an American. He’s Canadian. Do his actions fall within the concept of espionage? Might he be at some (official) risk of prosecution as a spy should he decide to do a book tour here in the U.S.?
No. For some reason, as I’ve detailed in other blogs, the journalist gets a complete pass. It’s like they have no active involvement, and just blindly put out what they’re told. Which is crap, of course. Glenn Greenwald is a case in point. NYT writer James Risen is another. He published classified details of our actions against Iran, and the US GOV went after the leaker and left him alone.
It’s disappointing when journalists don’t use enough prudence when it comes to these matters, but, as frustrating as it must be to see the United States government generally withhold themselves from prosecuting them, drawing the line between the leaker and the press as the norm helps protect the freedom of press, and of speech… I’m reminded of what I’m seeing now in Turkey, where reporters with VICE who have embedded with ISIS and other factions in the current conflicts in Syria and Iraq, simply to get an honest, objective point of view of what is actually happening, get held on charges of terrorism.
I reckon that, in the long run, journalists who engage in going too far will never get a free pass again, and their colleagues will take note. It’s hard to imagine that there aren’t subtler ways the government gets its retribution for what they do, anyway. 😉
I disagree with the black and white nature of your response. Someone divulging classified information for profit is wholly different from Turkey arresting VICE journalists for reporting in Syria (and actually, one could make the case that they’re calling themselves journalists PRECISELY because of the blanket immunity such a label brings, the same protection Naylor is using now). The first amendment does not give you unfettered rights to do whatever you wish just because you call yourself a journalist. Just as you can’t scream fire in a crowded theater, there are restrictions on the 1st amendment, and putting people in harms way is restriction number one. Something Sean Naylor did. He shouldn’t get a pass just so we can protect the ability of future journalists. Where does that stop? What CAN’T a journalist divulge in the name of the 1st amendment? Instead of passing his information to the KGB in dead drops, what if Robert Hansen had simply gotten some press credentials and posted it all in an Op Ed? Would that then make him less of a traitor? There are lines, and we should punish those who cross them.
“Just as you can’t scream fire in a crowded theater, there are restrictions on the 1st amendment, and putting people in harms way is restriction number one.”
First, I thought Naylor was already PNG amongst JSOC, etc?
Second, if you’re quoting Schenck, quote it completely, namely: that the First Amendment would not protect a man in *falsely* shouting fire in a theater and *causing a panic.* For some context, false cries of “fire” in theaters was a pervasive problem at that time — deliberate acts of terrorism rather than pranks — that left hundreds of people dead. Which is why the word “falsely” is key. Short of a promise to not divulge classified information, covertly soliciting such leaks, or specific statutes (i.e., 50 U.S.C. § 421(c)), downstream publishers can, in fact, largely do largely what they want even when it puts lives at risk. To be sure, the Pentagon Papers case remains a loaded gun pointed at publishers of known foreign policy and defense secrets, but that would be an extreme point, involving devastatingly harmful information.
Not sure what what your point is. Yeah, I get that journalists get a pass, and I apologize for not providing a treatise on first amendment rights vis a vis the “fire” quote. For some additional context, the Schenck case had nothing to do with fires in theaters. It was an espionage case involving seditious activities during World War I in which Oliver Wendall Holmes used the analogy of shouting fire in a crowded theater for his opinion. My point stands: Journalists, using the 1st amendment as cover, do not feel any responsibility for printing anything and everything they want in a quest for ratings and sales, regardless of risk to national security. In the words of one journalist, “You don’t want secrets out, stop the leaks”, as if it’s not only his job, but his obligation to print anything he can pry out. I agree with stopping the leaks, but it’s akin to a police officer saying, “you don’t want your house robbed, lock your doors”. In both cases, there’s a third party, but in the journalists case, unlike the burglar, he’s treated as a non-entity in the debate, even though he’s the sole arbitrator of what is or is not “devastatingly harmful information”.
As for Naylor being “PNG”, that’s only as strong as the willingness of men to follow the label. If they weren’t willing to follow their sworn oaths and non-disclosure statements, being “PNG” means little.
The point is if you were suggesting journalists should be criminal punished for doing what journalist do, saying the “First Amendment doesn’t give you unfettered rights” gets you about as far as saying “some speech is protected.” The “shouting fire” analogy, which is not a statement of law, breaks down completely when the “speech” — equivalent to pulling a fire alarm or screaming “gun” or “bang” next to the President — is not knowingly false. (Shouting fire in a crowded theater is, of course, often constitutionally protected (say, if there is a fire), even if more people die in a panic than would have died from the fire if one had spoken more calmly.) You needn’t provide a treatise; but citing how a journalism is on par with burglary (an analogy which begs the question) would be helpful. A better comparison is that the Guardian, etc. often operate indistinguishably from the Washington bureaus of China Daily and RT, or, an intelligence officer running a clandestine source. But that cuts both ways, especially since we allow foreign journalists knowing full well their mission is to uncover damaging information. Our government is such a sieve due to a national cultural of nosiness, hence why we don’t have an Official Secrets Act and the government doesn’t prosecute a third-party for disclosing classified information. Even Julian Assange — an anti-American and a literal psychopath who quite likely has blood in his hands — is unlikely to be prosecuted, save evidence he actively encouraged and facilitated lady Mannings’ crime.
Moral culpability is a separate matter, of course.
Well i just gave him my pennies worth what a unprofessional
Not to piss you off more, but have you read the interview he did with SOFREP in July?
SOFREP is by far the worst offender in this whole disclosure of information debacle. The guys behind this site are a bunch of attention seeking scumbags. The head of that site uses the death of his team mates to sell books, and sleeps just fine. Naylor, and the SOFREP crew are the epitome of hypocrites. They scream about people like “Mark Owen” and Robert O’Neill, but in the same breath they divulge far more information on a daily basis than both combined. SOFREP should be shut down, and the low life’s that write there should fade into the night. I am saddened, and ashamed by them and I hope all that follow Brad Taylor understand that we live in an age that requires even more secrecy than before. I personally would love to hear every juicy detail about how our top level forces are decimating the plague that is radicalism. Who wouldn’t? However, I understand and respect that those who do these jobs need to know that we will always protect them, just as they protect us on a daily basis. My hat is off to you Mr. Taylor, for your candor, and your dedication to your professional ethics.
Brad, well said. The damage is irreparable and Naylor’s motives were nothing but completely self-serving. In the end, however, I don’t know who I loathe more, him or those who talked to him. Be safe.
Wish Mitch Rapp was non-fictional. Seriously, this is so frightening for special forces and their families and for our entire nation as well. The 1rst amendment, he hides behind, is jeopardized each time our enemies get any info.rmation to use against us. This nations constitution, and it’s people is at risk.
Many years ago, someone, I thought wise, told me Our own self serving entitlement will defeat us before any foreign enemy will.
After a few friends of mine expressed their outrage and hatred for Naylor I decided to review the book out of journalistic curiosity. I was expecting vague descriptions and an overview type of history. So far, I’m really shocked. How he can say he isn’t knowingly divulging anything classified is beyond me. There is far too much operational detail in these recounted incidents. Now, after reading your post, I’m left to question how much of it is actually real. Either way, it is obvious that some of the people involved did talk to him. In many ways, this is worse than the two “talkers” who spilled the beans about the UBL raid. Worse because it seems more people talked in this case.
As a Canadian I am sick and tired of these Liberal knuckleheads writing these kind of tell all books thinking that it does no harm. If you even know part of your adversaries plans you can counter them and chnge the outcome of a conflict in your favour. Not all Canadians support this POS and I for one think he should have to face famlies of the military on both sides of the border who lose their lives in any conflict. It might smarten him up but unfortunately I doubt it. As an American as well I am disgusted with guys like this.
Oh and after finally finding Days of Rage here in Canada I am hooked on your writing style. Will try to fill my quota of the rest of your books. Very interesting read and held me from the first page to the last.
WHAT? I thought for sure “it’s the NFL that keeps us safe at night”…When in April 1993 the columnist Richard Grenier published a newspaper article which said “As George Orwell pointed out, people sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”…I thought for sure they were talking about the NFL’s ‘rough men’. NOT!
It is disgusting that people must attempt to destroy others to make a buck…especially when those others are protecting all of us…
1993 May 3, Insight on the News, “Carrying victimization a step further” by Richard Grenier, Page 21, News World Communications, Inc., New York. (Gale Academic OneFile)
You know why he does this– $$$$ — . We also know that karma is powerful. Keep the faith!
Agreed, but the problem with karma (however you may define it) is that it’s often slow to work – good people will likely die or be irreparably harmed because of Naylor’s actions — his inability to divide good from evil. This isn’t the first time that someone has cashed in on the alluring nature of special operations, and it likely won’t be the last. One can only hope that Naylor will see the error of his ways and a.) discontinue any further movement toward a new release containing more damaging intel and b.) consider using some of his questionably ethical gains to change his name and disappear. Although small, the community Naylor spotlights isn’t known for their forgiveness – especially if one of their own is targeted because of his actions.
Sorry, I preordered the book and it was actually on my Kindle before I saw your post on it. He kind of talks a lot about Peter Blaber and puts out the true name of Dalton Fury as well.
It’s a shame indeed that the label “journalist” can give protection for this kind of reckless behavior. Good writing and it also gave me some useful insights as to what the 1st Amendment covers and what it does not, which is reckless disclosure of confidential information. However, with all the damage done, Brad, how hard will it be to recover from it? How much restructuring, if any, will be needed? You’re right about the need for the “quiet professional.” It’s more important now than at any other point in history without any doubts.
Having paid him I read it. Either he cribbed a lot from Blaber’s book or talked to him for more detail. The one thing I brought from it is that he didn’t care for McRaven or some other flag officers.
It’s so frustrating for the press to act as if their work is immune from exploitation by our enemies. The press always makes it look like exposing information is somehow beneficial to us.
I appreciate every sacrifice made by the men in uniform over the past 14 plus years. Your ability to continue after the election and re-election of someone who obviously hates you, me, and America in general is something for the history books. I truly believe that Obama is a muslim terrorist beheading America, and the liberal media should be charged with his crimes as well.
Absolutely… But now (Aug. 2016) you can also thank Donnie T – for inviting his BFF (Vladie P.) to commit cyber-crimes against the U.S.
Many decades ago I was taught the Existential tenet of: “Existence before Essence”. Guys like Assange & Snowden never learned that. They’re “True Believers” (see E. Hoffer) – and actually have more in common with Bin Laden than they do with the rest of humanity.
BTW – what the hell is up with all of these Fox/Sound-bites in the replies? Jeezum – a scary country when the gun-toting populace follows Fox’s propaganda the way Germany listened to Goebbels in ’38