National Insecurity
The Navy’s Security Failures Aren’t Getting Enough Scrutiny

A U.S. Naval officer may have passed secrets to China for years, according to U.S. officials. The NYT:

The allegations against the officer, Lt. Cmdr. Edward C. Lin, 39, who was born in Taiwan, are part of a secretive espionage case in which Commander Lin is also accused of visiting a prostitute. United States officials, who were not authorized to speak publicly because the investigation into the officer is continuing, said Navy investigators believed that Commander Lin provided secret information to a Chinese girlfriend.

The officials could not say how the information was then passed on to Taiwanese or Chinese officials, but Commander Lin, a flight officer who worked on Navy spy planes, is accused of communicating secret information knowing that it would be used by a foreign government. The other charges being considered against Commander Lin include hiring a prostitute, committing adultery — a crime in the military — and not disclosing foreign travel to the United States government, and then lying about it.

In the Observer, John Schindler says the incident is the latest sign that “the U.S. Navy has lost control of its own security,” noting that this is just the latest in a series of major security breaches:

Ominous warning signs have appeared throughout the Obama presidency. When the Washington, DC Navy Yard fell prey to a spree killer in September 2013, leaving a dozen dead plus the shooter, the killer was a navy civilian employee with a history of mental illness including police involvement, and also a secret-level security clearance. Although police reported these incidents, navy security took no action, and the shooter remained able to work and enjoy access to military bases—with fatal consequences. It was evident something was seriously amiss with the navy’s security clearance process.

Just how broken that system actually is has been revealed by several cases since then. Last fall, Mostafa Ahmed Awwad, a navy civilian engineer, was convicted of passing secret information about the navy’s newest aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, to an Egyptian intelligence officer. Rather, to someone Mr. Awwad thought was an Egyptian spy. In reality, it was an FBI agent working undercover: the traitor was stopped before he could actually betray secrets. Left unasked in all this was how Mr. Awwad, a native of Saudi Arabia, got work as a navy engineer with security clearances when his loyalty was clearly not to the United States.

Schindler ties a lot of important—and underreported—threads together. It’s worth taking a few minutes to read the whole thing.

These failures are partly a consequence of the blue model bloat which characterizes today’s armed forces. Cronyism and general ineptitude are rampant. Part of this is due to the blindspots of journalists and policy analysts, many of whom rarely pay enough attention to the details of military operations and functions. The Navy’s inability to secure its own assets doesn’t bode well for its ability to secure those of the American people. The press corps should be scrutinizing the military more closely.

For its part, the White House remains serene and apparently unperturbed, at least in public. And even if Obama is taking these breaches seriously enough behind closed doors, he is clearly not having much success stopping them.

Features Icon
show comments
© The American Interest LLC 2005-2017 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service