The Best Defense

Sure, prosecute the Wikileaks leaker — but first, how about going after the torturers?

I am a bit surprised to find myself thinking that if this soldier really did what he is accused of doing-just throwing classified information onto the internet randomly-than he should go off and do time.

Why surprised? Because I was the recipient of tons of leaks over the years as a reporter. Most were not potentially dangerous, and a much of it was way overclassified. And when I did have stuff that could endanger troops and other people, my editors had a procedure in place to discuss it with officialdom before going to press. They didn't give the government the power to censor, but they did give them a serious chance to make their case.

I believe in the First Amendment, close to absolutely. Newspapers should be allowed to pretty much publish whatever they want. I believe that does our country far more good than harm. Yet I also believe in military discipline. People should do their jobs and keep their words-reporters and soldiers alike. Yes, that sometimes puts people at odds, but the founding fathers, in their wisdom, gave us an adversarial system, designed to check and balance power.

But then, I am a rule of law guy. Prosecuting this soldier is the right thing to do-but even more so would be going after all those who tortured people in our name. In fact, let's go after the torturers first, because they have done far more damage to our country and values. If the government has some free time left over after dealing with that stain, then sure, go after this kid.

laszlo-photo /

The Best Defense

COIN is hard, and this is how it is done

Here is a note from a Marine captain in Afghanistan, about a sergeant in Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines. Worth reading:

"I'd like to highlight one squad leader, who, along with his peers, has played a vital role in changing Fightin' Fox's area of operations (AO) over the past six months. Sergeant Lattimer, the incredibly courageous leader of ‘Fox 1 Bravo,' is on his 4th deployment; this is his third combat deployment. Sergeant Lattimer was repeatedly recognized during the pre-deployment training period for his outstanding leadership. 

Here in Afghanistan his performance has been special. When the company fought on a near-daily basis in November and December, Sergeant Lattimer all but forced his platoon commander and company commander to give him the hardest and most dangerous missions. For nearly six straight weeks, Sergeant Lattimer led his squad from temporary patrol base to multi-day ambush position to the next temporary patrol base to the next ambush position. Each time that he moved his squad, he led his men further into what the enemy once considered his safe haven. Sergeant Lattimer embraced ‘Spartan' living conditions and then some, while very rarely ever going back to one of our ‘permanent' patrol bases where, at a minimum, a Marine, Sailor, and/or ANA soldier would at least have a cot (maybe), an occasional hot meal, and a steady supply of water. Sergeant Lattimer sacrificed these ‘creature comforts' so that Fox 1 Bravo could be on the hunt every hour of every day. And hunt they certainly did... from eliminating enemy fighters, to forcing other enemy fighters to quit, to tearing tens of IED's out of the ground, Sergeant Lattimer made very clear to the enemy that he wasn't welcome in the company's AO. 

Fast forward 4+ months. Last week, First Sergeant Adams and I were fortunate enough to join Sergeant Lattimer's squad as he executed a late night contact patrol to one of his elder's houses. Earlier in the day and on previous occasions, this particular elder, when asked by Sergeant Lattimer how he could help, responded that his daughter and wife were sick and that he didn't have the money to bring them to a good medical clinic or hospital. With the same amount of passion that he approached hunting the enemy in direct fire engagements in November and December, Sergeant Lattimer requested a Medical Officer and Female Engagement Team (FET) to help his elder. Sergeant Lattimer's request was granted. He then informed his elder that he'd come by later in the evening with a doctor and FET. I proceeded to participate on a patrol led by one of America and the Marine Corps' "strategic" sergeants. After ensuring that security was in place outside his elder's house, Sergeant Lattimer joined the doctor and FET in caring for his elder and his family for more than 90 minutes. Needless to say, the elder was extremely grateful. In the days following this patrol, the elder voluntarily shared invaluable information about an IED cell in the area; the leader is now in jail. Our great nation is blessed to have men like Sergeant Lattimer defending it."

Tom again: As long as we are on the subject, here is Abu Mook's very good state of the COIN address.

U.S. Marine Corps /