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JIM ‘PAPPY’ MOORE: Young Airman Leaks Top Secret Material

By Jim “Pappy” Moore

I am amused by talking heads on television who pontificate regarding things they know nothing about. Their current drivel is that “no E-3 has access to this kind of Top Secret material.” 


The military tests all who join, and they determine where they believe they can best use you. If you score highly they will probably pick some field for you which they need filled with bright, young, energetic minds who can quickly excel doing difficult and important tasks. Once they have made that decision, they have background checks run. Agents go to your hometown. They talk to preachers, teachers, bosses, scout leaders, and others. They get your school records and your police records. They do all this before they invest hundreds of thousands of dollars training you for the field they have chosen for you. Once you get the Top Secret clearance, only then do they train you for that field.

Somewhere from nine months to a year later, you leave your training and go immediately to a base where you will be further trained to actually do the work. Guess what? Your rank will be E-3 when you first start handling Top Secret material on a daily basis. You work in a vault. You have a sign above the only door in and out which reads: “What you see and what you hear, when you leave, leave it here.” That means you don’t tell your wife, your friends, or even other service personnel you know. For me that first assignment was NORAD Headquarters.

Seeing Top Secret material is based upon two concepts: ACCESS and NEED TO KNOW.  Having ACCESS means you have the clearance. Having NEED TO KNOW means you have duties which require you to know the Top Secret material to do your job. This means you never discuss any of the material with anyone you do not have to in order to do your job. These concepts are drummed into your head. They are the bedrock of taking care of classified information. 

I’ll give you two examples of things which you can now find in common internet searches that were Top Secret and which I knew about through my work in the Air Force in the early 1970s: We had two spy planes operating out of Taiwan and Okinawa in those years. Near our base in Taiwan we had a U-2 and out of a base in Okinawa we had a new SR-71. Even among people I knew on the base who had Top Secret Clearances, I did not discuss anything to do with either of those operations. This is the first time I have ever written about these things, even though the information has been in the public sector for many years. 

There’s another saying we had about Top Secret matters: “those who know don’t talk and those who talk don’t know.” That is generally true. However, it does appear that the young man who recently divulged Top Secret material to unauthorized recipients did have a clearance but should never have made those disclosures to anyone not cleared to see them.

The leaking Airman was wrong and he is probably going away for a long, long time. 

Copyright 2023, Jim “Pappy” Moore. All rights reserved.

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