When someone heads up intelligence for a branch of the military, there are certain things the public expects. Primarily that they have access to classified materials so they can do their job. Well, in the case of the United States Navy, not so much these days.
For more than two years, the Navy’s intelligence chief has been stuck with a major handicap: He’s not allowed to know any secrets.
Vice Adm. Ted “Twig” Branch has been barred from reading, seeing or hearing classified information since November 2013, when the Navy learned from the Justice Department that his name had surfaced in a giant corruption investigation involving a foreign defense contractor and scores of Navy personnel.
Worried that Branch was on the verge of being indicted, Navy leaders suspended his access to classified materials. They did the same to one of his deputies, Rear Adm. Bruce F. Loveless, the Navy’s director of intelligence operations.
More than 800 days later, neither Branch nor Loveless has been charged. But neither has been cleared, either. Their access to classified information remains blocked.
Although the Navy transferred Loveless to a slightly less sensitive post, it kept Branch in charge of its intelligence division. That has resulted in an awkward arrangement, akin to sending a warship into battle with its skipper stuck onshore.
Now, removing Branch’s clearance to see this information isn’t an issue. Considering the situation, we’d argue it was prudent. While we’re looking at years without charges being filed, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything in and of itself. They want Branch cleared first, and that’s fine.
Where the stupidity comes in is how he’s been left him heading up intelligence for the service.
The Washington Post likens it to a warship going to fight without their skipper, and it’s pretty accurate. How is Branch supposed to do his job when no one can talk to him about what they’re doing? He’s out of the loop completely. Why is he still in that role?
Anyone looking at this can see what should have happened. Branch should have been transferred to something like Loveless was, then have someone appointed to fill those roles who actually can handle all aspects of the job. They’ve started the process twice, but never followed through. Branch’s replacement would have to be approved by the Senate, but it’s unlikely they’d take issue with Branch being replaced at this time.
Yes, Branch may well be innocent. We make no judgement about his guilt or innocence on the allegations of corruption. However, if he’s unable to do the job, move him somewhere else. It’s just that simple.