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The counteroffensives have begun.

Militarily by Ukraine.

Politically by former President Donald Trump.

In Ukraine's case, "there was a cottage industry that developed on guessing whether it started," with uncertainty around "longstanding Russian disinformation and also a desire on the part of Kyiv to conceal their hand," said Bradley Bowman, the senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Bowman, a former U.S. Army officer, assistant professor at West Point, and national security adviser to the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, said that if he were Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, "I would be keeping as close hold on this as possible" because "in very tangible, real-world terms, the more the Russians know what Ukraine is up to, the more Ukrainians are going to die and the more likely the counteroffensive will fail.

"This isn't a game of Stratego or Risk or a parlor game here; we're talking about the biggest land invasion in Europe since World War II." Whenever "your adversary finds out information about your plans or your capability or your capacity or your readiness or your posture, that literally is helping your adversary in a way that makes you less safe and endangers lives."

Retired U.S. Navy commander Jon Olson, a self-described "intel guy," spoke of OPSEC (Operations Security) and how "if you can figure out exactly what the enemy's strategy is, you can undermine the ability to implement the plans needed to effect that strategy."

Olson, who's taught Carleton College courses on the U.S. intelligence community, terrorism and counterterrorism, and on statecraft and the tools of national power, added that "the fact that the Ukrainians have figured out that they need to have really tight OPSEC and not tell the press or anybody else — even to a certain extent, the countries backing them — what their exact war plans are, that's in their favor, that frankly shows strong discipline on the part of the political leadership and the military leadership in Ukraine."

Conversely, an undisciplined approach to classified information is at the heart of hard-hitting Justice Department allegations against former President Donald Trump and a close aide that were unsealed June 9 in a 49-page, 38-count indictment.

Along with now-iconic images of boxes of records handled haphazardly in the bathroom and other areas of Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate, this statement encapsulated the allegations' gravity: "The classified documents [Trump] stored in his boxes included information regarding defense and weapons capabilities of both the United States and foreign countries; United States nuclear programs; potential vulnerabilities of the United States and its allies to military attack; and plans for possible retaliation in response to a foreign attack. The unauthorized disclosure of these classified documents could put at risk the national security of the United States, foreign relations, the safety of the United States military, and human sources and the continued viability of sensitive intelligence collection methods."

Lacking Zelenskyy's discretion, Trump — who learned tactics from Roy Cohn, his (and Joseph McCarthy's) former lawyer — launched a counterattack on the "Department of Injustice," special counsel Jack Smith (a "thug"), and pledged that if re-elected he will appoint a "real special prosecutor to go after the most corrupt president in the history of the USA, Joe Biden, and the entire Biden crime family," among others.

Meanwhile, Fox News negated any ostensible objectivity by running an on-air graphic while Biden was speaking that read: "Wannabe dictator speaks at the White House after having his political rival arrested." And most congressional Republicans and even most of his nominal nomination rivals rushed to defend Trump, with the admirable exceptions of Asa Hutchinson and Chris Christie, whose clarity contrasted with the hedged bets of Nikki Haley and Mike Pence, who checked requisite antigovernment boxes before stating the unmistakable: "Even the inadvertent release of that kind of information could compromise our national security and the safety of our armed forces," Pence told the Wall Street Journal. "If this indictment is true, if what it says is actually the case, President Trump was incredibly reckless with our national security," Haley told Fox News.

Both Bowman and Olson refrained from commenting on the case itself, appropriately deferring to the eventual evidence and the jury's discernment. But both spoke broadly about the importance — indeed, imperative — of keeping classified information just that.

"The thing that the average American needs to understand is that this information is obtained at great risk to our fellow citizens — there literally are Americans and our allies who have put their lives at risk to get this information in many cases," said Bowman, who added: "And when classified information is divulged through whatever means you are literally putting people's lives in danger. And that sounds like a quote from a Hollywood movie, but it's true." (An ethos reflected in Thursday's grand-jury indictment of Jack Teixeira, the airman behind the "Discord Leaks.")

Much classified information comes from geospatial intelligence and SIGINT (signals intelligence), Olson said. "But the HUMINT [human intelligence] piece is the one that is really concerning to me as a former [Department of Defense] case officer trained by the CIA to do these operations. Our job as case officers was to protect the lives of our assets." If "you're doing things that compromise a recruited asset and that individual gets rolled up and killed, what incentive is there for somebody else to say, 'Hey, I'll come forward, I'll spy for America,' if the president of the United States is taking this cavalier attitude toward that kind of information that may have been collected through human sources?"

And from the individual to the institutional level, allies may be reticent to risk sharing intelligence with the U.S.

"We rely on our allies and partners," said Bowman. "And when they take that risk, they're asking themselves, 'Can I trust the Americans to protect this information because I don't want to make myself vulnerable,' thereby decreasing the information we have, thereby making ourselves less safe." If "you put the lives of allies and partners at risk, you reduce the information that is fundamental to keep deterring and defeating threats and keeping Americans safe."

Ultimately, that's what intelligence gathering in both Ukraine and the U.S. is all about: national security — and securing democracy.

"The bottom line is the United States could not make good national-security decisions without intelligence," said Olson.

"There's a balancing act in democracies," concluded Bowman, "between being as transparent as possible, because the government 'of and by the people' requires it. At the same time, the threats we confront, addressing those threats, making sure we have what we need — those threats require secrets."

And that requires those in uniform — and their commander in chief — to protect those secrets.