Strategy Page notes what I've been hearing: that tension between the JAG officers at the Pentagon and those tasked with the fighting is at the boiling point.
September 19, 2006: Big brawl going on in the Pentagon between the JAGs (Judge Advocate General, the lawyers) and the operators (combat and intelligence types.) JAGs have become more important, decade by decade, over the last sixty years. This has happened in parallel with the growing influence of lawyers in civilian society. However, lawyers doing what they do has brought them into conflict with the operators. For example, the war on terror has created a murky legal area for captured terrorists. Many JAGs want to give the captured terrorists most of the privileges of civilians, or even soldiers, accused of criminal acts.
This creates a conflict with the combat and intel officers, who do not want to give the terrorists access to the identity of informants within terrorist organizations, or other information they have on the terrorists, and how they got it. In the civilian world, the prosecution has to let the defense know all this stuff. That's why there's a witness protection program, or cases where the government will not prosecute in order to preserve valuable intel. But such procedures don't work when most of your witnesses are living in a combat zone, and many of your intelligence collection techniques will be worthless if the enemy knows what they are, putting your own troops at greater risk.
On top of all this, the size of the JAG force has grown some ten percent since the end of the Cold War, while everyone else has shrunk by about a third. As a result, the senior JAGs in each service wants to be three star generals, instead of the current two star.
Now the JAGs are aware of the circumstances under which U.S. troops are fighting, and the importance of OPSEC (Operational Security, keeping info about your activities from the enemy). Even so, many JAGs seem to lose their perspective, and advocate strongly for giving the terrorists the information. Operators believe the JAGs are grandstanding, especially by saying one thing to uniformed people, and something else to the media and Congress. The situation has divided the JAG community as well, and it's getting ugly.
As the article observes, this is a reflection of our society where it can't be long before fear of being sued will have building owners stenciling warnings like "Jumping off this roof may lead to serious injuries and death."
In other aspects of our life, expensive defensive measures to protect against litigation are largely unproductive use of resources and annoyances. In an asymmetrical war like this,this pettifogging can prove so devastating as to cost lives and the war itself.
And if that happens, good grief, we may be unable to sustain law schools.
Clarice Feldman 9 19 06