Between a rock and a hard place

Trust is earned, not freely given. Gaining, or as some would say regaining, that trust must be a priority for the administration and the intelligence community. And, as we’ve seen over the last week, that job just got a lot tougher.

The electronic spying controversy has captured the news media and the attention of lawmakers in Washington, as well as much of the American public. The polarization on this topic is clearly evident just listening to the coverage on five of the major TV networks: NBC, ABC, CNN, CBS and FOX. Surprisingly, support for this program is not split along party lines.

What is not very surprising to many that are involved in or have been involved in the intelligence community is the change in President Barack Obama’s opinion and attitude from earlier in his political career. I once heard a story that when a senior government official was first briefed on the current state of threat he stopped the briefing halfway through and dropped his head in his hands.

Just imagine what the cyber threat environment looks like from the top (NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander or President Obama), compared to the mental picture of that environment the general public currently has.

There has to be some degree of trust by the American public. That being said, trust is earned—not freely given. Gaining, or as some would say regaining, that trust must be a priority for the administration and the intelligence community. And, as we’ve seen over the last week, that job just got a lot tougher.

What is likely to be the biggest leak of classified information in history will have far-reaching implications, of which most will not be evident or known to the public. It is a huge blow to the security of the nation.

However, the damage does not stop there. America’s allies are watching this very closely, and wondering if they, too, will be damaged by the fallout. They have to ask, how safe is the intelligence they collect and provide the U.S. in light of what has just taken place?

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