Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The long long reach of Vietnam: Ellsberg's Truth-Telling Coalition and the encouragement of national security leaks

[NOTE: Today we have news that the CIA detention center leaker might not have been Mary McCarthy after all; at least, she is denying any involvement. So for now I'll stop referring to it as the McCarthy case. But even though the identity of the leaker is not yet clear, it's fairly certain that the source was a CIA employee who had access to very sensitive information.]

Since I'm nothing if not a child of the 60s, for me the CIA detention center leak case has raised distant echoes of a well-known Vietnam era whistleblower who leaked classified information to the press: Daniel Ellsberg, of Pentagon Papers fame.

I was further reminded of Ellsberg by a detail mentioned in Wretchard's Sunday post at Belmont Club:

...the press has quoted two former counterterrorism experts in defense of Mary McCarthy but omitted one interesting detail, which may or may not be relevant...Ray McGovern and Larry Johnson [the counterterrorism experts in question] are associated with Daniel Ellsberg's The Truth-Telling Project.

"The Truth-Telling Project"--now, what might that be? Wretchard quotes from its web page, which offers the following description of the organization's purpose and function:

The Truth-Telling Coalition, comprised of high-level national security truth-tellers, as well as non-profit whistleblower organizations, provides a personal and legal support network for each other and for government insiders considering becoming truth-tellers.

So, according to its own description, the group appears to be an organization dedicated to supporting the spilling of secrets by national security officers in the interests of "truth."

The fact that the Truth-Telling Project has deep roots in the Vietnam War era (query: doesn't everything?) is made exceedingly clear if one reads its manifesto, "A Call to Patriotic Whistleblowing," whose title not only indicates the organization's commitment to supporting whistleblowers, but to encouraging them as well.

I quote here at length from this document (issued Sept. 9, 2004); see if you think the motivations and goals expressed therein sound nonpartisan:

It is time for unauthorized truth-telling.

Citizens cannot make informed choices if they do not have the facts—for example, the facts that have been wrongly concealed about the ongoing war in Iraq: the real reasons behind it, the prospective costs in blood and treasure, and the setback it has dealt to efforts to stem terrorism. Administration deception and cover-up on these vital matters has so far been all too successful in misleading the public...

Many Americans are too young to remember Vietnam. Then, as now, senior government officials did not tell the American people the truth. Now, as then, insiders who know better have kept their silence, as the country was misled into the most serious foreign policy disaster since Vietnam.

Some of you [security officers] have documentation of wrongly concealed facts and analyses that—if brought to light—would impact heavily on public debate regarding crucial matters of national security, both foreign and domestic. We urge you to provide that information now, both to Congress and, through the media, to the public...

Needless to say, any unauthorized disclosure that exposes your superiors to embarrassment entails personal risk. Should you be identified as the source, the price could be considerable, including loss of career and possibly even prosecution. Some of us know from experience how difficult it is to countenance such costs. But continued silence brings an even more terrible cost, as our leaders persist in a disastrous course and young Americans come home in coffins or with missing limbs.

This is precisely what happened at this comparable stage in the Vietnam War. Some of us live with profound regret that we did not at that point expose the administration’s dishonesty and perhaps prevent the needless slaughter of 50,000 more American troops and some 2 to 3 million Vietnamese over the next ten years. We know how misplaced loyalty to bosses, agencies, and careers can obscure the higher allegiance all government officials owe the Constitution, the sovereign public, and the young men and women put in harm’s way. We urge you to act on those higher loyalties.

I'm not sure what to call this (although I can think of quite a few things). But it is certainly, at the very least, active incitement and encouragement to divulge secrets. It is both politically motivated and clearly and consciously connected to the memory of Vietnam, and it unequivocally equates the current war with that past one.

How did the project come to be?

The Coalition stemmed from a symposium entitled "When Silence Is Complicity: What Should Officials Do? Whistleblowers Speak Out," held at American University on September 8, 2004, co-organized by Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence, the Truth-Telling Project, and the Department of History at American University. At the symposium, the first-ever gathering of high-level national security whistleblowers, many of the participants discussed the isolation they felt after breaking ranks with their colleagues and making the step to come forward as truth-tellers. In the discussions following the symposium, some of the participants discussed the value of forming a support-network for current and potential whistleblowers, and the Truth-Telling Coalition was launched.

It seems to be a sort of support group for CIA operatives and others engaged in national security who plan to become leakers. The model of a support group is one taken from a discipline with which I'm familiar, therapy. But this is quite a cutting-edge support group; it also offers free legal counsel to those who come forward:

The Truth-Telling Project is working with the Center for National Security Studies, the Project on Governmental Oversight and the ACLU to locate first-rate lawyers who will announce publicly their readiness to provide pro-bono legal counsel for government insiders contemplating truth-telling. At the request of the Truth-Telling Project, the ACLU has announced that is will provide free legal advice to government insiders considering becoming whistleblowers.

I don't know about you, but I find this all very troubling. It appears that these people are being encouraged to break security in the name of fostering their personal agendas about the war in Iraq. For example, the document mentions disclosing "wrongly concealed facts and analyses that—if brought to light—would impact heavily on public debate," not just war crimes or other criminal acts of the government.

These leaker-wannabees are not even given guidelines as to what might constitute a serious enough offense to justify blowing the whistle and breaching national security, other than their own not-so-humble opinions and perceptions. There is no discussion of trying to make the institutions themselves more responsive in their internal review process, the far less dangerous and more traditional avenue for corrections of problems; it is assumed that going to the press is the proper course of action. Another traditional avenue, approaching the Congressional intelligence oversight committee, is likewise ignored. Nor is it suggested anywhere (at least, not that I could locate) that a whistleblower ought to resign from his/her job before or after spilling the beans. Rather, it seems assumed that the whistleblower will stay on, even after his/her oath has been violated.

This last point is almost the one that bothers me the most, because it raises the specter of people being encouraged to remain as employees in security organizations after secretly becoming enemies to those agencies' policies. It's hard to escape the notion that their motivation for remaining in these positions at that point would be to act as press informants and hidden moles, in a sort of spy vs. spy routine.

I have no idea whether Ellsberg's Truth-Telling Coalition had any part to play in the CIA detention center revelations. Maybe it did, maybe it didn't. We simply do not know, just as we don't know the identity of the leaker. But there is no doubt that the Coalition was designed to foster just such leaks in order to undermine the war in Iraq, and that it's not hiding that fact, but proudly broadcasting it to the world via its website and press releases.


At 6:49 AM, April 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe I haven't been paying enough attention, but didn't subversives used to hide?

At 7:14 AM, April 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's okay to leak national security secrets if you're trying to bring down a corrupt government. Heroes of the revolution, not partisan leakers. Get clear on the greatest danger to the world--George Bush. A lot of collateral damage is gonna be necessary to bring this thing down. Bush is killing millions with his global warming and is gonna kill billions when his peak oil scheme kicks in. True freedom fighters would gladly wear burkhas if it means bringing down the tyranny of Bush.

At 8:58 AM, April 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Let me know if you are still breathing at this time tomorrow. If you are you've pretty much sunk your own argument that Bush is a tyrant.

As for global warming, thanks for letting me know that it only began once Bush became president and that it has killed "millions". It would be nice to know which millions and how it was accomplished, but I suppose I'll just have to take you at your word.

And the "billions" who will die when his "peak oil scheme" kicks in? Well, I'll have to take you at your word for that as well since you decline to mention precisely what "peak oil scheme" is and just how our oafish, ignorant, lying, bumbling, fool of a president is managing to pull off such a thing, whatever it happens to be. Nor do you tell me just how it will manage to kill "billions", the same way you decline to mention which "millions" have been killed by global warming and how.

I guess I'm just one of those idiots who subscribe to the theory that even if you disagree with your president you have an obligation as a citizen to remain a part of the loyal opposition, emphasis on "loyal". I can't believe I've been such a dope all my life.

At 9:06 AM, April 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous, haven't you found another country to go live in yet?

Maybe you could even wear a burkha in your new home!

At 9:45 AM, April 25, 2006, Blogger snowonpine said...

Its not a pretty picture folks.

Seems like any President, upon election, finds himself inserted into an existing web of agencies, relationships, mindsets and personnel, each with its own agenda. No matter what the President's plans are, they are often thwarted by the agencies and people who's agendas they conflict with.

Agencies that immediately come to mind are the State Department, CIA and Justice but I am sure there are many other candidates.

Bush appoints Condi as Secretary of State. Does she immediately clean house? No, she makes a few changes but, basically she tries to work with the existing system and people. From my observations I can tell you State has its own foreign policy and just ignores that of the President when it conflicts with that of State.

Porter Goss is appointed to head the CIA and he, like Condi, starts no purge but trys to work with the existing setup. Doesn't look like its working, does it?

I'm sure a lot of this hindering activity comes under the heading of passive-aggression and is not prosecutable i.e. directives are just ignored by silent agreement, files get lost, projects get shuffled to the bottom of the priority list, etc.

But in the "secret detention centers" leak we have a major blow to our anti-terrorism efforts, one of many coming from within our government, and does the administration try to systematically root out and punish those responsible? The leaker gets canned but gets to walk out of the agency sans hand cuffs. Doesn't seem like there has been a referral to Justice either.

I'm wondering what it will take to galvinize the administration to really try to fix this problem by finding the key leakers and those stalling, obstructing or sabotaging his policies, getting the evidence on them, charging them with the appropriate violations of federal law, then carrying through with vigorous prosecution leading to maximum jail time. It seems that this is not an issue that Bush is willing to spend political capital on but I'll be damned if I can see how can can effectively carry out any policy if I am right in my analysis of the situation he faces. It must be like trying to force your way through a room filled to the ceiling with molasses.

At 10:27 AM, April 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Crap. Doesn't anybody get parody?

At 10:37 AM, April 25, 2006, Blogger Dymphna said...

Gawd, neo, where in heaven's name do you find these anon trolls who spout these wack-o theories??

It must be your magnetic personality??

I came over to look at the scilla but got stopped by this post.

One thing about the Truth Tellers: the talking heads who were defending Ms Loose Lips are members of that group.

Her atty is the go-to guy for 2nd tier Dems. He was in on the Travelgate mess and a few other Clinton scandals.

Snowonpine has it right. The first thing a new manager does, if they want to be effective, is start firing people. It works. For example, one recently elected African president --I forget her name -- fired all of the Finance Ministry. She hired many of them back, after a thorough vetting.

We're too "sophisticated" for that. So Bush inherits a whole lotta Clintonistas (including those generals) whose job it is to set the stage for Clinton II. So they leak and leak and leak.

Mary Mc is, as someone said, "low hanging fruit." They are prediciting a busy, sweaty summer for many Dems as they hide in the shrubbery, hoping to avoid notice.

I don't have the links right now, but find "In From the Cold" -- he's an ex-spook with great info on how the system works. And look at James Lewis at the American Thinker.

I apologize for the lack o'links, but the first one is on my blogroll, and you probably already have the American Thinker?

There's also a blogger, Mac's Mind, that I ran across last night, who seeems to have other info. He may be linked by the exspook -- who is definitely the place to visit as this roll of toilet papers unwinds.

At 11:50 AM, April 25, 2006, Blogger neo-neocon said...

I think anon 8:14 is being humorous.

Although sometimes these days parody is so close to reality that it can be hard to tell.

At 12:15 PM, April 25, 2006, Blogger Jack Trainor said...

On second reading I'd agree that Anon 8:14 is parody, but it is hard to tell.

One of my favorite slams from the left is calling anything from the Bush adminstration they don't like Orwellian, assuming that St George has their back and not realizing that Orwell was usually in trouble with their leftist counterparts in the thirties and forties.

In fact Orwell was naming names to the British government of leftists he considered were putting their agenda ahead of the nation's.

At 12:38 PM, April 25, 2006, Blogger snowonpine said...

I just took a look at the totals in the "Plum Book," officially known as "United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions" which lists the approximately 7,000 non-competitive Civil Service positions in the Legislative and Executive branches that the incoming President gets to fill with advocates for his policies: agency heads and their immediate subordinates, policy executives and advisors and the aides who report to them.

At State he gets to put in 1,300 or so of his people, at Justice 600 or so, at the CIA 8. Higher level positions require the advice and consent of the Senate and many require filling out an exhaustive 50 or so page questionnaire about the applicant's qualifications, associations and financial history; plenty of personal information for people to rummage around in and red meat for anyone who wants to derail a particular Presidential appointment. A lot of good candidates just refuse to put themselves and their family through this grueling process so, a lot of these positions remain unfilled well into the administration as can be seen by glancing at listings in the "Federal Yellowbook."

Those that get appointed are a very few scattered appointees sitting atop a pyramid of 2,700,000 Federal Employees below them.

Regular Civil Service employees are extraordinarly hard to fire--it can take two years or more to comply with the meticulous timetable of steps needed to build a case for termination. The process of complying with this procedure usually occupies a large part of each workday for the supervisor who wants to fire an employee. These steps were diagrammed for a Congressional hearing a few years ago and I remember seeing a picture of the chart, it was about two feet high and 15 or 20 feet long. Of course, if the "powers that be" really want to get rid of you there are ways.

So, there you have it. As President, you can appoint 7,000 advocates for your positions and policies to key positions atop their respective bureaucracies which number 2,700,000 civil servants. Some positions are only filled well into your administration or are never filled except by "Actings." Your appointees try with greater or lesser success to get their agency to carry out your agenda. But, for career civil servants who are familiar with their agency's territory, its pretty easy, if they want to, to give these few appointees the run-around and sabotage them in all sorts of ways.

Looking at the situation as outlined I don't see any real great solutions, does anyone?

At 12:53 PM, April 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If any of you had ever worked in the civil service, you would know that political appointees carry with them enormous authority over normal GS workers.

The government has also been moving away from normal GS civil service employees to hire more contractors (like me) and more Title X (DoD does this more than others) for temporary positions (usually a year for contractors and one to three years for Title X employees).

I know that the big bad civil service is a fun target for the Right, what with it being full of liberals! How dare they sully your government! I guess when your party controls all three branches of government and still can't hand you the utopia they've been promising for so long, you need to explain their failure somehow.

At 12:56 PM, April 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's hard to tell whether anon was a parody?

"True freedom fighters would gladly wear burkhas if it means bringing down the tyranny of Bush."

I hear this all the time. Do you know where I hear this? I hear this on Right-wing blogs. This is a Rightie fantasy, that Lefties hate Bush so much they'd side with evil Islamofascists to bring him down. This is so blantantly insane that I have yet to hear anyone, even the crazy fringe of the Left, argue this - that we should submit to Shari'a if it meant that Bush got his.

This, I think, is telling: that your view of people on the Left is so warped that you'd actually entertain the notion that someone would believe this. It's kind of sad; you're angry at a parody of a simulacrum.

At 3:06 PM, April 25, 2006, Blogger J. Peden said...

I, too, have been burned by misinterpreting what some commenter is saying when influenced [me] by some emotion even involving a totally different circumstance. Emotional influence is what I think the problem here is, but only because I've experienced it.

The only thing to do is to learn from it. It's not a mark upon your soul, nor any necessary indication of an intractable disability.

Spanky is justified in making his/her comment to the extent of pointing out this valid example of a kind of defective thinking, while not indicating why it can happen - so as to actually rectify the problem!

I don't think this is a cheap shot at Spanky, who apparently thinks in the very face of this example, "your party...still can't hand you the utopia they've been promising for so long".

That's the first time I've ever heard that one - that the Republicans have been promising a utopia!

So I would ask Spanky why this is not much different than the kind of conclusion s/he is rightfully criticizing, the latter which itself, again, is probably due to emotion's effect on the interpretation of a parody, but certainly at least from something a rational person would like to find out about and then be wary of.

On the other hand, I don't really know why Spanky thinks Repubs have been promising a utopia. But there is obviously some thinking defect going on in the process which leads to this conclusion - perhaps as simple as generalizing from anecdotes.

Obviously, there is much food for thought on dysfunctional thinking also contained in the Truth-Telling Coalition's statements, almost an overwhelming amount. When people get that far gone, there's probably no hope in in trying to help them as compared with the urgent need to combat them. They admit they have no concern for national security.

There was no such urgent national security need to combat the publication of the "Pentagon Papers", but the effect of allowing them to be published seems to have led such "truth tellers" to at least confuse the present with the past, if not actually assiduously trying to live in it in all its mythologized glory.

At 5:27 PM, April 25, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

You can play around in war, but your opponents aren't going to play by your tea party rules. They're going to bring out the ruthlessness and the rage, and if you can't meet force with force, strength with strength, you will be rail roaded.

The Founding Fathers easily forsaw this. This is why the bureacracies in the executive branch are all beholden to the President, and can be fired, or at least destroyed, by the third branch of government. It used to be the military had a hand in these subversive operations as well. Major General George B. McClellan purposefully delayed his advance into Richmond in order to give the South "better terms" of surrender. Thus causing a one year war to turn into a 4 year slaughterfest. McClellan, someone with Democrat Presidential ambitions, thought he had a better idea of what was good policy than Lincoln.

I don't think anything will galvanize the Administration, because President Bush isn't a vicious SoB. He only becomes something close when 3,000 Americans died. The CIA leaks, bad as they are, have not directly killed any Americans in large enough of a scale to bring out the beast in Bush. It's gone a little bit asleep, given the less desperate situation Bush has engendered. The price of peace is the price of a lack of vigilance. The price of war, is paid in blood. Bush paid the blood for the war, and now he's paying the price for peace. It's weird that a President who ran his foundation upon domestic policy, would be best at war and not peace.

Much of my analysis and comments concerning Bush's recommended policy was done as a discussion with Jack Trainor here.

No Terror Connections

If you can't fire someone, you can destroy their career and make sure they never get promoted. It is not nearly as difficult as training an Iraqi Army from ground zero with no leaders and no infrastructure, with the terroists taking pot shots and blowing up recruitment lines.

The military knows how to do it. And Bush can't replace the entire military with house hold troops, yet the military is most loyal. The solution is there. It's all about promotion and advancement. Firing is like executins, use them as examples on one or two. Most people will get the picture.

The comments on the subject of the problem and concerning the solutions are more beneficial to those most affected. People like spank make the subject about people, how tall they are, how smart they are, how deluded in onions they are. This has the effect of dumbing down the discussion, and diverting energies from solving the important problems.

So I hope people don't get diverted by other people from the important subjects around.

At 6:58 PM, April 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, Spanky. None of your lefty buddies have out and said "I'd swap a burkha for getting Bush."
But their actions against Bush will bring them a burkha if they succeed.
It's the connection they deny.
But if you asked them....

At 7:06 PM, April 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, yes...Bush is all that stands between us and Shari'a.

I really wonder...if we hadn't invaded Iraq, do you really believe that we'd be wearing burkas?

At 8:18 PM, April 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spanky. Dodging the question is not the same as either addressing it or winning an argument.

Enjoy being invisible.

At 8:45 PM, April 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wait...I asked you a question...and you complain that I'm dodging a question?

Please explain.

At 9:08 PM, April 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The question is: When does dissent become treason? The lack of any prosecutions for treason indicates the crime no longer exists. Just because someone is against a policy or a member of the press does not give him the right to give secrects to the enemy in wartime. A couple of trials would clear the air.

At 9:21 PM, April 25, 2006, Blogger Harry Mallory said...

I wonder if this guy, Greg Mitchell, editor of the trade magazine Editor & Publisher will be one of the top coalition members:


Bias? What bias?

Read the whole sorry thing.

At 9:35 PM, April 25, 2006, Blogger Harry Mallory said...

The above article brought to my attention by LGF. I thought it'd be nice to mention them.

At 10:01 PM, April 25, 2006, Blogger snowonpine said...

I watched Elizabeth I starring Helen Mirren and Jeremy Irons last night and I highly recommend it. Thinking of the issues which brought this discussion into being, I couldn't help wondering what the Elizabethan approach to security leaks would be. I suspect, from what I saw last night, that it would be the rack followed by hanging, drawing and quartering and then quite a few heads on pikes as you entered the castle to remind all of the penalty for betraying your Queen and your country.

In today's gentler age I suppose the equivalents would be loss of job with loss of pension and prosecution for any number of offenses up to treason, which carries the death penalty. But no one that I am aware of has been prosecuted in the last decades for such severe leaks; spies, yes, moles, yes, leakers,no. It seems to me that if you never harshly punish or even bring to trial anyone who commits a serious violation of the secrecy laws, its as if there were no secrecy laws (the farce of Sandy Berger's "punishment" comes to mind here). If you never punish infractions you also embolden other potential leakers, who might be on the fence, to leak.

At 10:25 PM, April 25, 2006, Blogger Harry Mallory said...

"In today's gentler age I suppose the equivalents would be loss of job with loss of pension and prosecution for any number of offenses up to treason..."

Who's kidding who? If your a liberal you guest lecture at Universities and end up with your own show on "Air America". You're greatest contribution to society from that point on, would be to edge Cindy Sheehan further back from the limelight.

(And boy, will she be pissed!)

At 10:35 AM, April 26, 2006, Blogger snowonpine said...

Harry Mallory--

I'm afraid you are right.

I've recently come across the work of 20th century Italian Marxist theoretician Antonio Gramsci. A case can be made that it is his playbook that has been used by many on the Left to undermine American culture and society. Gramsci believed that the ruling groups in society held "Hegemony" through a "dominent set of ideas through which dominant groups secured the consent of subordinate groups to their rule." (see this article from which I have quoted for more detail http://www.freerepublic.com/forum/
a3a4c610569be.htm) Gramsci's plan was to attack and subvert the institutions of a society--the family, the church, schools, civil society and its organizations. If this subversion was successful, a whole new set of values, beliefs and morality would replace what had been and the people would question the legitimacy of their rulers to rule in the accepted way. One of the keys to this transformation was the capture of the media so that it could pour out unceasing propaganda to change the popular concensus.

Looks to me like this is what has been happening and if none in the MSM "dare call it treason,"then, for a lot of people, it isn't.

At 11:12 AM, April 26, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oy, you're just now discovering Gramsci? Pat Buchanan has been harping on Gramsci for 20 years now.

But no, I sincerely doubt that dark and mysterious acolytes of an obscure Italian Marxist have infiltrated our institutional state apparatuses and begun propagating their ideology.

Yes, yes, I know, evil liberals have infiltrated our culture and have changed our values systems so that people can't call gays "faggots" anymore, black people can marry white people, and children are taught Chanukhah songs but not Christmas carols.

But Gramsci probably would have held this sort of thing in disdain as well. These are cultural artifacts - they represent the superstucture of cultural relationships that grows out of the base of the means and modes of production.

Gramsci wasn't interested in liberal cultural ideas; he was interested in changing the way people think about their relationships in terms of power, all going back to their relationships to the means of production.

In other words, if people's energies are devoted to identity politics instead of stuff like, I don't know, the revolution, then Gramsci really didn't do a very good job.

Gramsci's real contribution was understanding how the demands of the economy shape our culture.

A fun little example:

In Jesus' gospel, he promoted a radical re-interpretation of what "family" meant. The new family was to consist of believers in Christ; it didn't matter who your mother or father or sister or brother or child was. All that mattered was belief in Christ - everyone who believed was to be a brother and sister in Christ's family.

This was a radical break from tradition, a total reshaping of social and moral order.

Now, though, it is the nuclear family that is considered the bedrock of morals/values/tradition/faith/etc.

Jesus' gospel didn't change, but people's understanding of families and how families relate to morality has changed.

Capitalism, of course, demands a highly mobile, atomized labor force. The traditional extended family model is incompatible with modern capitalism - family connections get in the way of open economic exchange.

So, in other words, even though the original text remains unchanged, what people believe about families and morality has changed in a way that neatly suits the demands of the dominate economic mode.

Coincidence? Or was Gramsci right?!?!?!?!?!??! Long-dead Italian Marxists report, you decide.


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