Why are so many US Defense personnel able to access top-secret documents?
The sheer size of the US Intelligence Community, as well as the size of the Armed Forces, requires many people to have security clearances, which in turn ensures access to classified information. By various counts, more than 4.8 million Americans have access to secret documents. It is a very high number that reflects the size of the US Intelligence Community. Today there are 18 agencies, including the CIA, FBI, NSA, and many more, counting the intelligence agencies of the Pentagon.
Is the worst yet to come in terms of the sensitivity of the leaks?
I think so. The current structure of the US classification system was devised many decades ago, when it was physically difficult to duplicate information, usually by photocopying or photographing documents. Today, it takes a fraction of a second to make copies of digital documents, and everyone carries a high-resolution camera in their pocket as part of every smartphone. As a result, I think we are going to see an unprecedented volume of leaks in the coming year, with each new leak dwarfing the last by comparison. This affects not only the United States, but all nations that have a security and intelligence system.
How will America’s allies react after their defense secrets are made public?
It will create some division and discomfort in the relationship between the countries that are members of the US-led alliance, including NATO. But it will have to be overcome, given the pressures and challenges that are taking place today, including from Russia, China, Iran and others. It can be seen as a partial setback for the US goal of appearing as a world leader in intelligence information. The question of how and why these documents were leaked will be paramount in deciding how different actors react to this.