Loose lips sink ships

Pyjamasmedia reminds us that the blurting out of vital secrets by a reckless media is not new. The NY Times, in disclosing the details of US intelligence operations in time of war, is simply continuing a long tradition.

The example they give is the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut that resulted in over 200 casualties, a bombing that might have been prevented had the media not disclosed that US Intelligence was intercepting signals between terrorists in Syria and their paymasters in Tehran.

Reading the story reminded me of an incident during the 1982 Falklands war. The Royal Navy task force was operating several thousand miles away from its nearest base, without proper aircraft carriers. Air defence was, too say the least, a problem. Thankfully a combination of a few very good Harrier pilots and the Sea Dart missile system made life very difficult for the attacking Argentinian airforce, forcing them to operate at extremely low altitudes and release their bombs sometimes as little as 40ft above their target.

There were 2 consequences of this. Firstly the Royal Navy developed a certain professional respect for the skill and bravery of the Argentinian airforce pilots (the only people in the Argentinian military who acquited themselves well in the war). Secondly the Argentinian bombs, because they were released so low, didn't have sufficient time to arm themselves before hitting their target. A large percentage of the small number that hit didn't explode as they'd been configured for medium altitude release (these were pre 'smart bomb' days).

And then the BBC stepped in.

The BBC World Service, after receiving what was probably a confidential briefing on the matter from the Ministry of Defence, decided to broadcast the nature of the problem to the world. Shortly afterwards Argentinian bombs began to explode with greater frequency.

The Royal Navy task force commander, Admiral Sandy Woodward, later said in his memoirs that the BBC were more concerned with being "fearless seekers after truth" than with the lives of British servicemen.

In a separate incident in the same war Lieutenant-Colonel H. Jones, threatened to lead the prosecution of senior BBC officials for treason after they disclosed British plans for an attack on an area of the islands known a Goose Green. He was unable to do so as he was later killed in action in that same area.

We don't yet know what damage the leak via The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal will cause, if any.

What we do know is that these "fearless seekers after truth" can be trusted about as far as you can comfortably spit a rat.

Posted by: Sheward at 04:04 PM

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