I have now worked for U.S. Army Intelligence for more than 42 years. All but five years of that was in counterintelligence.
As trained agents, we learn that all acts of espionage can be traced back to a trigger. Something occurred in the traitor’s life to see espionage as a justifiable course of action. Two of the primary triggers are financial Problems and disaffection.
The recently announced furlough – especially the way it is being enforced in the intelligence community – will set off these triggers for many of its members. Few people can afford to take a 20 percent pay cut, even if it is only for 11 weeks.
FOR SOME IT will be an inconvenience, and they will have to make small changes in their lifestyles for four months, but for some it will certainly create financial hardship. Many people live from paycheck to paycheck with no savings, and all of their income committed even before they are paid. For these people, you will create a lot of financial hardship, and some will certainly go a lot deeper into debt, if not bankruptcy, to weather this hardship.
What is said about financial hardship can also be said about disaffection. All will be disappointed in the actions of their government and see them as avoidable, and will be disappointed in the fact that only selected government-employed civilians had to pay for the president and Congress’ inability to govern. Loyalty is a two-way street, and some employees will see these actions as clearly an act of betrayal of them by their government.
All of these intelligence personnel have security clearances and access to classified information. If you consider that you have just betrayed thousands of these cleared people with access to classified data and equipment; created a financial hardship for them, perhaps even bankruptcy; and then disaffected all of them to some degree or another; you can expect that some will be tempted to seek relief or revenge in ways that most people might consider unthinkable.
IN A COUNTRY that values political correctness over moral correctness, you can expect that there is more than one Edward Snowden out there who would justify betraying his country. Decades ago, even under these circumstances, no one with a clearance would have considered betraying their country, but that climate and loyalty does not exist today.
For me, I will be financially inconvenienced and am surely disappointed in our nation’s and military’s leadership, but would never consider doing anything I have described in this memorandum.
I believe that this shortsighted furloughing of intelligence personnel will create many problems for the U.S. intelligence community, and keep us counterintelligence special agents busy for years.
(The writer is retired from the U.S. Army and is a civilian employee at Fort Gordon.)