What good is a intelligence chief if he isn’t allow to see, read or hear military secrets?
This is the plight of Vice Adm. Ted “Twig” Branch, the Navy’s current intelligence chief who is not allowed to know any military secrets whatsoever. His access to classified information was revoked in 2013 after he was connected to a $20 million corruption scandal.
Since Branch has yet to be charged, his inability to hear classified information has become a huge handicap for him and his subordinates. His new workplace is, as the Washington Post puts it, “sending a warship into battle with its skipper stuck onshore.”
Branch can’t meet with other senior U.S. intelligence leaders to discuss sensitive operations, or hear updates from his staff about secret missions or projects. It can be a chore just to set foot in colleagues’ offices; in keeping with regulations, they must conduct a sweep beforehand to make sure any classified documents are locked up.
Some critics have questioned how smart it is for the Navy to retain an intelligence chief with such limitations, for so long, especially at a time when the Pentagon is confronted by crises in the Middle East, the South China Sea, the Korean Peninsula and other hotspots.
“I have never heard of anything as asinine, bizarre or stupid in all my years,” Norman Polmar, a naval analyst and historian, said in an interview.
In addition to being the Navy’s intelligence chief, Branch is its chief information officer and is in charge of the 55,000 Information Dominance Corps.
The Navy has twice attempted to replace Branch, but failed both times because their nominated replacements were not approved by the Senate. It would also take months for Branch’s security clearance to be restored by the Defense Department’s Central Adjudication Facility.
Until Branch either regains his clearance or retires, mum’s the word.