I have found the recent news regarding the boxes of Top Secret documents just “hanging around” in an unsecure environment quite disturbing.
You see, before I was a doctor, I was a submariner. I had a clearance of “Top Secret SI.” When I received that clearance, I remember being taught the importance of ensuring that classified information remain classified. I was told a story that still sticks with me 35 years later.
In World War II, we had, early on, not lost any submarines. The Japanese thought that our subs could not go below 200 feet. They set their depth charges to go off at 100 feet, knowing they had a kill range of 100 feet, so they would destroy our submarines at any depth.
What the Japanese didn’t know, was that our subs could actually submerge to 400 feet, and were thus unaffected by the charges going off 300 feet above them.
A Senator, who was briefed on how the war was going, thought it would be reassuring for his constituents to know how we have been outsmarting the Japanese, so he shared this story with them when he next returned home.
The next week, we lost two submarines.
Classified information is not a game. Information is classified for a reason, and declassifying material “on a whim” is not only inappropriate, but downright dangerous, as shown in the above story.
There are men and women putting their lives on the line to gather this information. There are soldiers and sailors (our soldiers and sailors) who will be put at risk if a foreign power learns about the technology or tactics contained in these documents. We need to protect our men and women in uniform, and our assets (aka “spies”) in foreign countries.
When I went to the locked and guarded area on Subase in New London, Conn. to read those “Higher than Top Secret” documents, I first signed affidavits acknowledging that I could be jailed for decades if I compromised this knowledge.
While people argue and rage over the seizing of Top Secret material that should have never been there in the first place, and others are looking to make political points, there is something that is being missed. The reason this is wrong is because it threatens those who protect this country. It’s not a game. It’s not a political issue. There are lives in the balance. And it has got to stop.
Wayne S. Strouse, Commander, Medical Corps, US Naval Reserve (Retired) Penn Yan
EDITOR’S NOTE: Letter writers are responsible for making sure the information they submit is accurate and factual.