Fears of a leak‘If you know both yourself and your enemy, you can come out of hundreds of battles without danger,” Sun Tzu said in “The Art of War,” the 2,500-year-old Chinese book on strategy. This states perfectly the importance of intelligence.
However, this basic tenet was completely ignored in the proceedings of the Cheonan incident. Kim Hak-song, chairman of the National Assembly’s Defense Committee, held a press conference on Monday in which he revealed sensitive military information while discussing the Cheonan’s sinking. He even said that the officer from the Joint Chiefs of Staff who gave him the information was reprimanded for providing “military secrets.” Kim may have revealed the military information just to mitigate confusion over the mystery, but in the end he gave up his responsibility as chairman of the committee.
Chairman Kim is not the only one to blame. The public also pressed the military for details and the government, political leaders and even the Blue House joined the stampede.
Footage of the sinking ship, taken with a thermal observation device, was made public even though the military didn’t want the capabilities of the TOD revealed because of its effectiveness in detecting the movements of the North Korean military and spies.
But the military, which was following an order from the presidential office, could not help but release the information in full detail.
One of the revelations made was of information gathered through signal intelligence, which Korean and U.S. intelligence agencies collect at the cost of millions of dollars per year. A portion of the Cheonan’s sea operations was also revealed. All of this puts North Korea in a position to know our military secrets in detail. The North could also try to neutralize our information-gathering systems or set up its own counterintelligence strategies. That will make it extremely difficult to judge the accuracy of the information coming from North Korea for some time.
The Cheonan incident has become an unprecedented security crisis and one of the biggest military tragedies since the Korean War. In its wake, the government, the military and the public have all run around confused. But the military should be held most responsible because it released critical military secrets after succumbing to pressure from the public and politicians.
Now, the military, with the intelligence community, should conduct a careful review of the entire affair. But if they continue to cling to secrecy, it is highly possible that we will see another leak. The military needs to make a clear distinction on what to release and what not to release. Both the government and the public should also have the wisdom to refrain from making such requests.