I first learned about the “Canary Trap” in Tom Clancy’s “Patriot Games.” It’s a technique for identifying leakers; feed selected (often false) information to those you suspect of disloyalty, then see if it appears in public. In more sophisticated forms, it involves giving different suspects different information (or different details) of the same story. It’s been around for ages, and nearly everyone knows about it, but it is still used, and it still works.
I was reminded of that recently, and I find myself speculating on whether it’s been brought back, with spectacular results.
First, we had the Pulitzer Prize-winning story about secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe. The funny thing was, nobody could find a single shred of evidence that such prisons existed.
Now we have the news of a secret NSA program that collected literally trillions of phone records (at rough estimate) and dumped them into a database for data-mining, in quest of connections to terrorists. This story dominated all the news for days, with some of the far lefties calling it an “impeachable offense” and using it to assail General Hayden’s nomination to head up the CIA.
But now, two of the phone companies cited as giving their data to the NSA have issued very strong — even categorical — denials. The story, as spectacular as it sounded, appears to be built on air.
Just like the secret prisons story.
Now, I have absolutely no evidence or inside information to work from. As I often say, I’m just a nobody from nowhere. But if I was in charge of counterintelligence for the CIA or the NSA, I’d be deeply troubled by all the leaks from the agency. And if someone were to suggest I cook up a few really, really juicy stories, the types of stories that would be absolutely irresistible to those ideologically-driven leakers, those who seem to be focused on assailing the Bush administration in order to preserve the ingrained bureaucracy and culture of the intelligence community. Stories such as secret prisons or massive federal snooping would fit the bill quite nicely.
All speculation, all conjecture, all half a step above fantasy. But it seems to fit the facts as they stand today.