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False Flag

A lesson from North Korea.

9:10 AM, Jun 11, 2010 • By GABRIEL SCHOENFELD
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“A senior Korean military commander has been arrested on suspicion of leaking the South’s military defense plans to Kim Jong Il’s regime,” reports The Australian. “The major general, identified only as Kim, arrested by military authorities yesterday, faces charges of supplying confidential information to North Korea.”

False Flag

This is a bizarre “false-flag” leak case that illustrates one of the dangers of passing along classified information to those not authorized to receive it. Kim, the alleged perpetrator here, evidently supplied  sensitive war plans to Park Chae-seo, an old friend from his military academy days.  Unbeknownst to him—or so Kim says—Park was a rogue agent in the pay of North Korea, and was himself arrested on espionage charges last week.

The episode raises a question about leakers here when they pass along secrets to journalists: what if the journalist is disloyal? Whatever one thinks about the shortcomings of the American press, outright treason is not one of its afflictions. But it is worthy of note that there have been exceptions in our distant past. During World War I, William Bayard Hale, a Hearst correspondent and formerly the Paris correspondent for the New York Times, was in the pay of the German ministry of propaganda to the tune of $15,000 a year, a handsome sum in those years.

There is not a scintilla of a evidence that we have Hales among the press corps today, but an enemy intelligence service, if it is enterprising and eager to tap confidential sources in the U.S. government, would do well to seek one out.   

Gabriel Schoenfeld is the author of Necessary Secrets: National Security, the Media, and the Rule of Law.

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