PARIS -- Anyone who knows anything about the real world of intelligence and espionage knows that James Bond is a joke who wouldn't survive his first day on the job (and not just because he'd fall asleep during static surveillance). But just try explaining to people that Agent 007 bears absolutely no resemblance to the reality of espionage profession. So it shouldn't come as any surprise that intelligence-leaking NSA contractor Edward Snowden -- with his lack of understanding of the intelligence apparatus, given that he's a tech guy and not an intelligence specialist -- would impress a significant portion of the general public.
Ever since Snowden ran off to Hong Kong and started spilling America's national security secrets to a British newspaper, people who normally find themselves glued to "Mad Men" and "Game of Thrones" are suddenly spouting off about the merits of classified information management as it pertains to America's national security interests. Would these same people believe themselves capable of fixing their car's brakes after watching a mechanic do it once?
High-level intelligence and information can't be armchair quarterbacked -- something that my own masters-level university students learn at the outset of their two-year course of study. As they quickly realize, handling and presenting information only looks easy. It's why bloggers end up getting themselves sued with the sort of faulty word selection that professional journalists would easily avoid. Before Snowden, another self-styled whistleblower, WikiLeaks' Julian Assange, set himself up for a lifetime of hiding inside an Ecuadorian embassy by neglecting to consult with a journalist or other information specialist before dumping a load of classified documents into the public domain.
Information is the most valuable and powerful currency on earth. What typically isn't assessed by information and intelligence amateurs is the law of blow-back and unintended consequences -- something that political, military and information-operation strategists have to consider when planning any move. But Snowden isn't an information specialist or strategist. While Snowden may very well have felt that he was leaking national intelligence for virtuous reasons, the outcome is already providing fodder for America's biggest competitors -- a phenomenon that Snowden is unable to mitigate given his inexperience with information operations. And at what gain to Snowden and his civil libertarian fan base?
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