Today, while following a lead related to my upcoming second nonfiction book, THE CLAPPER MEMO, I came across something both astonishing and disturbing. On the website of a private investigations firm in the Washington, D.C., area, I found one of the nation’s highest-ranking counterintelligence officials using his federal government position to bolster to his credibility as a private investigator and, in turn, increase business and revenues for his business.
On the “Career Highlights” page of the website (shown redacted* above), I clicked on the “Counterintelligence” tab and found the proprietor of the firm behind the website had listed his present position of employment with the Department of Defense: Deputy Director for Counterintelligence. This is, of course, very disturbing as our nation’s top intelligence officials, including Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., find themselves grappling with serious concerns about national security leaks like the ones highlighted recently in the National Post, The New York Times and The Weekly Standard.
Immediately upon seeing this information displayed so publicly, I fired off an email to Lt. Col. Jim Gregory, a public affairs officer in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and asked him to confirm whether or not the individual who appeared to be the proprietor of the business was, indeed, a high-level DoD employee as the website claimed. In addition, I told the colonel I would have a follow-up question for him if he was able to provide that confirmation.
Less than 24 hours later, I received confirmation from Colonel Gregory and replied with the following:
“I found it unusual that a person in the counter intel biz would advertise his arguably-sensitive position on a private investigations business website. Isn’t there a policy or regulation that prohibits that?”
Another 24 hours passed before I received this message:
“Bob — There is no specific policy regarding the security aspects of posting his position, however there is a policy related to implied endorsement of his company by posting it. Thanks for bringing this to our attention; Mr. (name withheld) has been informed and is taking the appropriate steps to bring his website into compliance. Best, LTC Gregory”
Though I never served in the world of counterintelligence, I found myself stunned that someone so high up in the “food chain” would do something like this and decided to turn to someone I knew with experience in that arena. Was my reaction was appropriate? To find out, I contacted a retired counterintelligence operative with whom I’ve been friends for several years and asked him for his thoughts.
“Even privates in the Army know such actions go against DoD ethics and conflict of interest directives,” he said, agreeing to speak with me only on the promise of anonymity. “It shows me how much the standards have dropped.
“In the old days, someone in such a high-level CI position would never even think about owning a PI business, never mind advertising on the internet AND showing his current government position to bolster his image.”
*EDITOR’S NOTE: For obvious reasons, I chose not to divulge the name of the DoD employee, the specific area of the counterintelligence directorate over which he exercises responsibility or the name and URL of the website address of his private investigations company. I did, however, grab screenshots and, to further protect all involved, opted to share a redacted, black-and-white version of one of those screen shots above.
UPDATE 8/03/12 at 9:22 a.m. Central: I’ve done my part for national security. Less than 24 hours after being told by a DoD public affairs officer that the high-level counterintelligence official would be told to “bring his website into compliance,” I can report that has happened. I wonder who should get my bill for services rendered?
UPDATE 8/08/12 at 11:36 a.m. Central: High-Ranking Counterintelligence Official Identified.
Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice, a nonfiction book that’s available in paperback and ebook via most online booksellers, including Amazon.com. His second book, The CLAPPER MEMO, is set for release this fall.