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 protected]>
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 <[email protected]>
To: Sean Naylor <[email protected]>
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!