We all know that founding father Ben Franklin was a quintessential Renaissance man: politician, philosopher, inventor, scientist, diplomat and much more. But now, apparently, we can add national security risk to his long list of accomplishments.
According to i09, a CIA analyst has published an article that portrays Franklin as having incredibly poor skills when it came to securing sensitive information, not to mention some very loose lips. The declassified article can be found on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) website, and claims old Ben put America’s Revolution at risk in several ways. For instance, his office in France—which he visited as America’s diplomat in order to secure their support for the rebellious colonies—was supposedly ransacked by British spies. As a result, the agents of the empire were able to get their hands on secret documents.
Another Ben Franklin espionage faux pas was his friendship with a Dr. Edward Bancroft, who was a British scientist, businessman…and spy. Bancroft, at the urging of the British government, asked Franklin if he could help the American’s war against Britain. Ben accepted Bancroft’s request, giving the spy access to all sorts of secret documents. As time went on, Franklin refused to listen to accusations that his friend was funneling information to the enemy.
The CIA article blames Franklin’s sloppy security standards to pure pride. It states the following.
“His attitude…is all too familiar among some policymakers and statesmen. His ego may have overwhelmed his common sense.”
In Ben’s defense, at the time of the Revolution he was in his 70’s, after all. The average life expectancy in the late 18th century was about 40 years. So the fellow was probably slowing down a bit.
In the 21st century, Ben Franklin has of course been appearing more and more in pop culture. He’s graced the Assassin’s Creed video game franchise with his presence, for one example. Then there’s his recent appearance in the second season of the Sleepy Hollow TV series, in which he apparently channels a bit of his inner Victor Frankenstein. In real life, Franklin’s famous kite-lightning experiment inspired some scientists of his era to explore the uses of the then little-understood phenomenon of electricity. Of course, some of his contemporaries got the bright idea to start electrifying corpses.
Do you believe that Ben Franklin could have put the American Revolution at risk of failure? What do you think of using a founding father as fodder for modern entertainment?
[Image via Gizmodo]