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The Anatomy of an Evolving Threat: Publication of Classified Information

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross | November 20, 2013

Fast-paced technological advances have, for decades, been causing wrenching changes to national security and international affairs that are generally unappreciated until a crisis arrives. And even after crisis has struck, such as the massive disclosures of classified material by Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, it still often takes years to contextualize what happened, and why.

In the case of Manning and Snowden, a couple of specific changes that have been underemphasized in the public debate explain how such disclosures of information have, in a short time, dramatically evolved as a national-security challenge. The first change is an individual's ability to steal vastly larger troves of information than ever before, and the second is his ability to present that information to the world without passing through traditional channels of publication. While the U.S. has struggled to understand these changes and formulate appropriate responses, the biggest state ally of "transparency activists"—Russia—clearly apprehends the value of both disseminating and suppressing information in this new environment. While supporting, encouraging, and enabling the secrets of its rivals to be spilled on the world stage, Russia has ruthlessly suppressed political difference within its own borders.

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