Open-Source Espionage (OSE) is the publication of classified information, knowing it will thereby fall into hostile hands, while being able to claim plausible deniability and legitimate motives, and gain some degree of public support.
It differs from conventional espionage that involves the covert passing of classified information directly to a foreign foe, with no attempt to publicly claim legitimacy for doing so.
(Here I’m using the phrase “open source” as used in the software industry, where the “source code” for a computer program is published in the open literature, rather than as the phrase is used in “open-sources intelligence (OSINT)” which is the use of unclassified source materials in intelligence analyses.)
Here’s what I think is up with Trump’s unprecedented order to allow Barr to declassify anything and everything pertaining to US intelligence activities in Russia:
1) The threat of potential declassification is identical in its effect, to a threat to publish the material.
2) The material in question undoubtedly contains “sources and methods” details that will destroy the effectiveness of some of our advanced technical means of collection, and will get American covert agents in Russia outed, captured, and killed. 100% certainty about that.
3) If the material is declassified and posted or published anywhere, Russia’s services will pick it up and have it on Putin’s desk within hours. 100% certainty about that too.
4) Thus the threat of Barr declassifying the material is equivalent to a direct threat to hand the material over to Putin.
5) As you’re reading this, behind the scenes there is probably a mass freakout at the agencies, particularly at CIA, which handles our human assets in Russia. This will translate through the organizational charts to serious pressure on Congress to back down on investigations of Trump, in order to get Trump to back down on his declassification threats.
6) Trump knows that and is using the declassification threat as a form of blackmail against Congress, to get Congress to back off.
7) Under no circumstance should Congress agree to back off even an inch. Giving in to blackmail only results in more blackmail, and results in letting criminals get away with past and future crimes. What is at stake here is nothing less than the entire “rule-of-law” principle of governance, as opposed to the “strongman” principle of governance held by Putin and Trump. If we lose the rule of law, we lose everything built upon it, which is to say everything.
8) What we need to do: Call our Representatives and Senators, ASAP, to urge them to stand strong, to call out Trump’s blackmail for what it is, to demand that he stop it and back down immediately, and to make exactly no promises in response to his threats.
9) IMHO this episode deserves an article of impeachment all its own. I trust Speaker Pelosi’s strategic and tactical judgements about how to move forward with impeachment hearings, and I’d encourage us to have patience while she assembles the pieces in such a manner that they’ll work as intended. (At minimum, to hold extensive impeachment hearings and then get an Impeachment Resolution passed in the House.) The present situation has probably just given her another piece to work with.
This stuff is as serious as a heart attack. For anyone who was born after the last Cold War ended, it should illustrate why that period in history was so scary. Cold wars can hot up real fast. This time, the battle lines of the new Cold War are within our own government.