It doesn’t matter who tries to stick their finger in the proverbial dam to stop the perpetual torrent of leaks coming from the White House — another one will simply spring up from another source, delivered to another reporter. Stephen Mnunchin tried to stop the leaks in March, only to have his anti-leak memo leaked. Now the same thing has happened to H.R. McMaster as he gamely tries to fulfill his duties as Trump’s National Security Advisor.
It took less than a week for McMaster’s “Request for Provision of Training on Unauthorized Disclosures” to make its way over to Buzzfeed and go public before McMaster’s recommended training, slated for the week of September 18th, could begin. McMaster explained in the memo what measures he was going to take to plug those leaks:
In light of the recent press conference by the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence regarding unauthorized disclosures, I am requesting that every Federal Government department and agency dedicate a 1-hour, organization-wide event to engage their workforce in a discussion on the importance of protecting classified and controlled unclassified information, and measures to prevent and detect unauthorized disclosures. There are many resources available to frame this 1-hour event, including a review of policies, guidance, videos, and training materials, and perhaps most important, an open discussion to answer questions and raise issues to ensure that our safeguarding measures are understood and effective.
McMaster was also careful to note that he does distinguish between “unauthorized disclosures of information and whistleblowing.” He noted the difference between leaks of actual classified information (which is illegal) and leaks of unclassified information that might be embarrassing or unflattering (but is legal). Unfortunately, McMaster’s plan to train the whole government at once was foiled by someone who, apparently ignorant of “what it means to be a steward of United States Government information,” spilled the beans.
Part of the reason the White House can’t check leaks, as Vox notes, is Trump’s own preference for consuming public media rather than internal memos, briefs, and even the most flattering of documents. He can’t stop the leaks because he has created an environment in which his own children have to resort to a weird passive aggressive telephone game to get his attention. Perhaps McMaster should leak his training materials to get the job done.