Government transparency has entered the national consciousness in a big way since the NSA revelations in 2013 touched off by Edward Snowden. But still, it’s a surprise to hear a military leader advocating a better system of sharing sensitive information. Even more so, to hear this from someone who was intricately bound up in the day-to-day goings-on of a “war on terror” that started in 2002 and doesn’t seem like it’ll end anytime soon.
In The military case for sharing knowledge, General Stanley McChrystal argues that the military needs to switch from a culture of “Who needs to know?” to “Who doesn’t know, that we need to tell immediately?” He may have retired from the armed services, but when the guy who commanded Joint Special Ops for five years in Iraq and Afghanistan says this kind of thing, it’s worth paying attention. Should we be alarmed that he describes an environment in which information is locked in secret hard drives and file cabinets, inaccessible even to closely related sectors of the military? Yes, and likely for more reasons than we’ll ever know.