“I don’t have one bit of concern”

New book reveals military code names

Some idiot named Bill Arkin has a new book coming out that reveals 3,000 military and intel code names, many of them with a clearance of “Top Secret”, with a brief description of the military or intel programs they represent.

Here’s a taste:

  • West Wing: Two remote air bases in Jordan used for invading Iraq and now for clandestine military counter-terror operations in the Middle East.
  • Oplan 4305: Contingency plan for the defense of Israel. Arkin also says the U.S. has quietly pre-positioned munitions and equipment on Israeli soil.
  • Conplan 8022: Top-secret pre-emptive plans to take out nuclear facilities and other threats in Iran, Syria and North Korea.

Mr. Arkin, a

former Army intelligence analyst and former senior Greenpeace researcher argues too much national-security information is hidden from the public and classified for political reasons rather than to guard vital secrets.

“It’s trivial secrecy. It’s bureaucratic secrecy,” says Arkin, who also works as a military analyst for NBC News. “These are bureaucrats trying to protect their turf. This is not national security. This is government gone wild.”

Fortunately, Mr. Arkin has no concerns about any issues the info in his book may raise. Say, for military personnel or intelligence agents. What’s the worst that could happen? Besides the death of US operatives or soldiers, the failure of vital operations, or defeat in the war, anyway?

“The American public needs to understand that when the President of the United States speaks about Iran, it’s not just rhetoric,” says Arkin.

Uh, Mr. Arkin? If anyone on the planet earth thinks that when the President of the United States talks tough about a country he’s just blowing hot air, they haven’t been paying attention for the past three years.

This man is a fool. The book publisher is a fool. The book sellers are fools.

It doesn’t really matter if many or most (or even all) the code names are known in some circles. We are at war and someone thought the information should be secret. If this information is as mundane as he claims, then there’s no reason to publish it. He’s simply looking for some attention and book sales.

But even mundane code names might be important.

In 1942, six months after Pearl Harbor and right after the battle of the Coral Sea, we intercepted coded Japanese Navy messages that indicated that the operation against “AF” would begin soon. We had broken much of the code, but even so, we didn’t know where “AF” was. Some thought Hawaii. Some thought the Aleutian Islands. Others thought Midway Island, or the West Coast, or even the Panama Canal.

We knew roughly when the operation would take place. We just didn’t know where. Fortunately, someone had a bright idea. Midway Island was instructed to transmit an uncoded radio message claiming that their water-purification system was broken-down. A few days later we intercepted a Japanese message stating that “AF” might be running low on fresh water.

So we sent everything but the kitchen sink to the area, and we ambushed the ambushers, sinking four Japanese carriers and dealing the Japanese military a blow from which they were never able to recover. If we had fallen into the Japanese trap, we may have not been able to recover for years, and it might have cost us Hawaii. And losing Hawaii would have cost us dearly.

Quick thinking and hard work managed to figure out what the Japanese meant by “AF”. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a book published by a Japanese writer who thought spilling a few “trivial”, “bureaucratic” secrets wouldn’t matter.

But maybe our enemies won’t have to work so hard.

UPDATE: And I didn’t even comment on the fact that Arkin is or was a “senior Greenpeace researcher”. I will let you decide whether that means anything or not, and whether it matters.

UPDATE 2: Part of a promotional blurb on the CODE NAMES website by Chuck Horner:

Code Names scares the hell out of me because Arkin dredged up so many secrets and turned them into a comprehensive tour of our national security efforts around the globe. This book lays out for the reader what China, Israel, France and Russia probably spent billions trying to find out.

I’m not exactly sure why that’s something that the publishers find admirable. Am I missing something here?

UPDATE 3: And my initial reaction was to call Bill Arkin just “some idiot”. This is probably not true. I’m not actually questioning his intelligence or the intelligence of the publishers and booksellers.

I’m questioning their wisdom.

Comments

  1. I must be missing something. Last time I checked, making Classified information public was a crime. If this jackass is actually revealing information classified as ‘Secret’or above, isn’t that illegal? I looked him up on the link and found he is a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst. Can’t he be re-called to active duty and court-martialed under the UCMJ? I looked up Treason in the U.S. Code. While it certainly describes what this guy is doing, one of the sections under espionage was a better fit: TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 37 >

  2. You’re right, Chris. But I’m thinking that he must have been able to gather the classified information from already-public sources. I don’t know how that works, then. Assuming it really IS classified and not just a marketing ploy to call it such. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt (against all my better judgement) and assuming that the info has already been leaked in one place or another. But instead of quietly trying to help the proper authorities plug the hole, he went and gathered it into a handy book and published it for personal profit. Maybe (hopefully) the publication will help spur action by those resposible for the information security, but there was probably a much better way to do it. Of course, he could be totally in the wrong as far as sources go. Then it should ‘up against the wall with him’. We’re at war, and something he is comfortable with release might not be as ‘trivial’ as he personally thinks.

  3. Sorry, but I am a stickler for facts. n 1942, six months after Pearl Harbor and right after the battle of the Coral Sea, we intercepted coded Japanese Navy messages that indicated that the operation against ‘AF’ would begin soon. We had broken much of the code, but even so, we didn’t know where ‘AF’ was. Some thought Hawaii. Some thought the Aleutian Islands. Others thought Midway Island, or the West Coast, or even the Panama Canal. We knew roughly when the operation would take place. We just didn’t know where. Fortunately, someone had a bright idea. Midway Island was instructed to transmit an uncoded radio message claiming that their water-purification system was broken-down. A few days later we intercepted a Japanese message stating that ‘AF’ might be running low on fresh water. When you say roughly, and include the Aleutians, the west coast, midway, and panama canal, that is a pretty huge area, don’t you think. The fact is that the US Navy knew the Japs were in the vincinity of midway. That had broken much of the japanese code

  4. Okay, torcik. I read your comment. Did you read my post? I pointed out that much of the code had been broken. The phrase ‘We had broken much of the code’ was an indication of my position on that point. What I then immediately said was that although we could decipher much of what they said, they referred to ‘AF’. It doesn’t matter if we know the ENTIRE code. If we don’t know what ‘AF’ means, we don’t know what ‘AF’ means. ‘AF’ wasn’t an encrypted string of characters, that, when decoded, spells out the target. It’s a code name. I’m assuming you are aware of that. And we didn’t know what ‘AF’ was. True, many did suspect that it was Midway. But they didn’t know. Should we just have taken a vote and sent the fleet out there? They played the little game with the message about the water purifiers exactly because they thought it could very well be Midway. What facts are you a stickler for? You claim that, in contradiction to every book on the Pacific war I’ve ever read, we knew that Midway was the target right away. What do you know that no one else does? There WERE ships and operations in the Aleutians at that time, you know. What if we hadn’t figured it out and sent everything to Alaska when the Japanese attacked the day before they attacked Midway? That was part of the Japanese plan. They had subs out to intercept. But, assuming you do really know what no one else did, does that mean you don’t think it matters if our code words are published? What’s you point? What facts are you a sticker for? And do you think it matters that this book has been published?

  5. What I then immediately said was that although we could decipher much of what they said, they referred to ‘AF’. It doesn’t matter if we know the ENTIRE code. If we don’t know what ‘AF’ means, we don’t know what ‘AF’ means. >>>>Navy codebreakers had seen ‘A’ designators assigned to locations in the Hawaiian Islands. Based on the information available, logic dictated that Midway would be the most probable place for the Japanese Navy to make its next move. That certainly leaves out the west coast, the Aleutians and the panama canal And we didn’t know what ‘AF’ was. True, many did suspect that it was Midway. But they didn’t know. Should we just have taken a vote and sent the fleet out there >>>>They did not have to take a vote. In Jan =the navyrecovered code books from a sunken jap sub off Austrailia. From those codebooks and other ciphers, the Navy knew that the japs were going to draw the out the US Naval fleet near Midway and that the Aleiutians were a divirision. ? They played the little game with the message about the water purifiers exactly because they thought it could very well be Midway. >>>>OP-20-G was certain but Nimitz who had 3 aircraft carriers, 45 fighting ships, and 25 submarines, needed to be reassured What facts are you a stickler for? You claim that, in contradiction to every book on the Pacific war I’ve ever read, >>>Can you you name them we knew that Midway was the target right away. >>>>So why are you talking about the west coast, the panama canal and the Aleutians and state We knew roughly when the operation would take place. We just didn’t know where. The pacific is a big place

  6. torcik: What’s your problem? You said you were a stickler for facts, but your logic dictated a ‘most probable place’. That’s your quibble? That I said we didn’t know for sure and you say we knew most probably? Very impressive. Night and day sides of issue. The Navy didn’t KNOW that. I’ve read that some felt that the whole Midway idea might be a feint. That’s probably part of the water purifier game rationale. And if some Intel guys are 100% certain and the leaders are 75% certain WE DON’T KNOW. At least not enough to claim it with any certainty. Nope, I can’t name all the WW2 books I’ve read. Would a higher number be better? Would it matter? I’m sure it’s not as many as you. Does that prove that you’re right about ‘most probably’ and I’m wrong about ‘we didn’t know for sure’? Because you’ve read more books? The most recent books concerning Midway directly that I’ve read were Walter Lord’s INCREDIBLE VICTORY, which I’m pretty sure has the AF story like I described it, and William Gay’s SOLE SURVIVOR, which didn’t mention it, IIRR. No doubt they’re worthless in your humble opinion. I’m confused by your last paragraph, as you seem to be attributing my take on your position as my position. Or something. I don’t know. I won’t answer to that one… Meanwhile, back on the farm: What’s you point? What facts are you a sticker for? And do you think it matters that this book has been published?

  7. MURDOC, YOU ARE QUITE CORRECT IN YOUR ASSESMENT OF THE RAMIFICATIONS OF THE ‘CODE NAMES’ BOOK. I AM A MILITARY HISTORIAN, AND ALTHOUGH I DO AGREE WITH TORCIK’S EVALUATION OF OP-20-G AND ITS OPERATIONS, I MUST SAY THAT THE RAMIFICATIONS OF THESE OPERATIONS ARE WHAT’S RELEVANT. IF ANYONE BASES THEIR ANALYSIS OF A COMPLICATED INTELLIGENCE OPERATION (SOME OF WHICH IS STILL CLASSIFIED) ON A HOLLYWOOD MOVIE CALLED ‘MIDWAY’ (WHICH WAS A GREAT FILM) THEN THEY DO NOT UNDERSTAND ‘EFFECTS BASED OPERATIONS’. LOOK IT UP. TAKE A LOOK AT >>> RONALD SPECTOR, ‘EAGLE AGAINST THE SUN’ (NEW YORK: VINTAGE BOOKS, 1985)