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19 July 2010

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J

The CIA is now 'pretending' that hired Mercs are CIA Officers.

"In June, a stone carver from Manassas chiseled another perfect star into a marble wall at CIA headquarters, one of 22 for agency workers killed in the global war initiated by the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The intent of the memorial is to publicly honor the courage of those who died in the line of duty, but it also conceals a deeper story about government in the post-9/11 era: Eight of the 22 were not CIA officers at all. They were private contractors."

Phil,

Can the CIA ever be rescued from the firm grasp of the Mercs who now seem to hold sway over the agency? Especially now given that for every tug away from using Mercs and back to decency in government, there is a Merc-bought-n-paid-for Congress personna waiting in the wings to nullify such tugs.

Government employees/Military personnel take an oath to our Constitution. Mercs take an oath to their $$$ bottom line/pocketbooks. BIG difference wouldn't you agree?

WP

Commenting on Gautam Das's puzzlement over how with 85,000 people with top secret clearance, any secrets are kept.

The "secrets" even if they are quite trivial are kept because it is in the direct self-interest of each contractor to restrict as much information about their contract as possible. My guess is that one of the requirements of each of the government contracts, even the most trivial for supplies and toilet paper have a provision somewhere in them that requires nearly every employee, down to the janitors to sign a "non-disclosure" agreement of some sort. The secrecy is much more pervasive than those "secrets" that relate to national security.

The last thing any contractor wants is to have people talking about what they do. It is bad for business and if much gets out, allows competitors to have valuable business and marketing information that threatens the contract.

The whole culture is one of secrecy motivated by self-interest and real market realities. Furthermore, the cachet of "top secret clearance" renders some sort of status to be desired and gives one's operation significant protection against being accountable.

My suggestion is that if you want to test my observation, try to find out the amount of money Google, Microsoft, of any other big tech firm is paid for government contracts and what is covered? Their employees are contractually bound to secrecy and the government in not saying. The information is simply not public or available.

We citizens have no way of knowing what our "government" is doing and really have know real information as to where the "government" and the "not-government" boundaries lie. A strong argument can be made that much of our "corporate" world is government wholly unaccountable to the People and in its own interest, enforces a secrecy far more stringent and effective than the rules of secrecy imposed by the contracting government agencies.

Patrick Lang

wp

It's 850,000 not 85,000. I will say it again. "Top Secret" is NOT a high level of classification, but I guess people don't know the law. 20 years in prison as a judicial punishment is the likely end result of leaking classified information. There are many, many higher and more secret levels of access than a mere "Top Secret." pl

Patrick Lang

Cynthia

"...anytime whistle-blowers or journalists try to report any type of waste, fraud and abuse taking place in the intelligence community, they are accused of being "enemies of the state" and hauled off to jail without due process of law,"

Examples? pl

WP

Likewise, a lawsuit for breach of a non-disclosure agreement that ruins one's whole family finances even if one wins is a huge incentive to keep one's mouth tightly sealed. Companies really do sue over these agreements and usually win, sometimes with huge damage awards.

All of the incentives and disincentives effectively keep things secret.

Fred

Didn't realize what I would start with linking to another WAPO article (VA's state liquor stores). So much for humor. Hopefully if the state pursues 'privatization' it will actually get a fair price for opening the market.

WP

The secrecy society is now all pervasive. The Red Cross will not even give you disaster training (http://atlantaredcross.org/general.asp?SN=4159&OP=4161&IDCapitulo=1V82G3ASOY) unless you sign a confidentiality agreement and undergo a background check. You have to sign the confidentiality agreement to do anything with the Red Cross. Look at the fine print, it is astounding--and silly. http://www.atlantaredcross.org/pdf/2006ApplicationEnglish10.6.pdf

As an attorney, the way I read the non-disclosure, is that if you are a Red Cross volunteer and used their methods, it would be a violation of the non-disclosure to teach (disclose to) your own daughter CPR or swimming lessons unless done in an official class.

Too much useless lawyering and too much fear in this country for it to be healthy!

Where is the common sense? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reducio_ad_absurdum

WP

"Examples?. PL"

Not exact, but close and ideologically similar:

http://gizmodo.com/5553765/are-cameras-the-new-guns

Patrick Lang

wp and cynthia

You cannot say or write that the USG locks up whistleblowers without trial unless you have specific cases. pl

Cynthia

I know of two whistleblowers who've been locked up for leaking supposedly top-secret government documents to the press.

FBI linguist Shamai Leibowitz is one:

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0510/37721.html

Former N.S.A. executive Thomas Drake is another:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/15/thomas-drake-former-nsa-e_n_539217.html

Glenn Greenwald frequently writes about Obama's War on Whistleblowers:

http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/05/25/whistleblowers

http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/04/16/prosecutions

http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/07/14/whistleblowers

And if you plan on being a top bankster while Obama is in power, make sure that you become one of Obama’s favorite golfing buddies, because in exchange for playing a good game of golf with him, he’s likely to strong-arm his prosecutors into getting you off the hook for your criminal activities.

http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2009/8/25/who_is_obama_playing_ball_with

But if you plan on blowing the whistle on one of our top banksters while Obama is in power, think again, because his prosecutors are likely to make you into a scapegoat and have you hauled off to jail.

http://www.democracynow.org/2010/1/7/why_is_the_whistleblower_who_exposed

So my advise to all future whistleblowers while Obama is in power: Watch your back, because Obama Justice may indeed make you into a scapegoat and have you hauled off to jail.

WP

There is a constant tension between those who believe in good government by encouraging whistleblowing and those who wish to suppress the dissemination of information. This site is one place that that struggle is documented and fought: http://www.whistleblowers.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1099&Itemid=178

Due process is a funny thing in the criminal arena. Whistleblowers are deterred by a steady string of prosecutions with many ending in pleas that are deemed to be the proper application of justice and proof of a crime. But, a guilty plea in the face of the greater personal and family disaster that would result from standing upon one's rights is truly, often a deprivation of due process though it is "legal." One does not have to sit in on many criminal court hearings to learn that many who plead, do so for reasons other than real guilt on charges originally brought. (That is what is meant by pled to "lesser charges")

It is interesting how many horrible things are justied because they are "legal" The impramentar of "legal" releases the community from further consideration of the cause and salves all communal guilt.

A most interesting tome on the issue of "legal" is the following book a thinking Catholic or humanist ought to read and consider. http://www.amazon.com/Grand-Inquisitors-Manual-History-Terror/dp/B003STCOXG/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1279642026&sr=8-2 It was all "legal" and has astounding parallels to the present.

Things "legal" often lead to tyranny. The abuses recited by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence were all "legal" and supported by the hightes "legal" authority of the nation, the Crown.

The question posed by the current emerging domination of our nation by the intelligence and police agencies is truly, whether such a secret, security state should, indeed, be "legal." Our focus should not be set upon whether the intelligence services are efficient or corrupt, but rather whether such a secret quasi-government should have such power over us as to destroy individual freedoms?

That question is not being asked and is lost in the fearfulness of the American People and their futile collective desire to be secure.

Patrick Lang

Cynthia

Both of these people leaked classified information that they had access to as part of their federal employment. This is a crime. They were briefed and re-briefed repeatedly that it was a crime. they signed acknowledgements in advance of access that they knew it was a crime.

Were they denied due process? How is government supposed to function if it cannot trust its employees and military personnel? pl

Bart

Jackie:

On your version of GWOT, here in central VA the biggest culprit are the tulip poplars. If only someone could turn these omnipresent fast growers
into oil.

Allen Thomson


An exercise somewhat related to the WaPo article: Google for "SSBI" and "TS/SCI" and see how may job announcements come up.

J

Colonel,

How does government function when the head of state apparatus -- VP Cheney/Rove/Libby/Addington intentionally leak/compromise classified information (they publicly disclosed that Valerie Plame worked as a CIA NOC) for political purposes, and gets away with no punitative action taken against them for their 'crime'? How does government function in that respect? The worker bees (Military/Government employees) are slammed to the wall, while the big ones like the head of state apparatus skate for doing the same thing.

Government can it function when it cannot trust its own head of state apparatus?

WP

PL,

In response to your question, "How is government supposed to function if it cannot trust its employees and military personnel? pl" I reply with the real question of the day: "How can a free society operate in a climate where all information about the government's malfeasance and misfeasance is hidden and the release of it is criminalized?

My answer to your question is a guandry. I cannot see how a government of a free people can ever operate when its employees and military personnel fail in their duty to inform the People of the government's misfeasance, malfeasance, and criminality. To me, the disclosure of truly criminal activity by a whistleblower in violation of the obligations of secrecy should be a sort of qualified immunity from prosecution, subject to a balancing test against the effectiveness of the internal whistleblower system and the character of the crime esposed.

The duty of the public servant and the soldier is to uphold and protect the Constitution, it is not to shield criminality and theft. I can envision may cases where the obligation to uphold and defend the Constitution trumps the requirements of secrecy and non-disclosure.

On enlistment, every soldier, sailer, or Marine swears,

I, (name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

Lawyers take a similar oath upon being admitted to the federal bar.

Sometimes the quandry of a citizen's duty and the soldier's oath may require whistleblowing and disclosure. The line is not clear and the risk is great. It is the willingness to uphold those risks and responsibilities that keeps us free.

No society can long be free without openess and candor as to how it really operates.

confusedponderer

Just for some context of what 'top secret' is - when I did my military service in the German army I was cleared for 'top secret' i.e streng geheim, and I was a mere 'Hauptgefreiter', not even an NCO.

Patrick Lang

WP

"truly criminal activity" and who decides what that is, you?

Thoreau refused to pay his taxes in protest over the Mexican War. He knew that was a crime and expected to go to jail for it. Don't get on your high horse with me. You have no idea what sort of price I have paid for conscience. pl

J

Colonel,

It really bites to see Military/Government employees having to pay the price for the incompetence/stupidity/criminal malfeasance of the head of state/congressional apparatuses.

I think about all those damage assessments as a result of the head of state/congressional apparatuses.

clifford kiracofe

Pogo Theory obtains.

1. Arguably, the present academic/think tank/contractor network today had it roots in the early Cold War. RAND is one kind of example, Hudson Institute another, Carnegie another, Ford Foundation and the major tax-exempt foundations etal. still more.

Think tanks/university centers generate the scenarios needed to justify policies and options which in turn justify massive (and unnecessary) "defense" expenditures and foreign adventures.

2. "Privatization" and abuses? In days past the King would issue letters patent to establish "private" monopolies to produce goods or SERVICES.

We can recall this issue of monopolies during the early Stuarts, James I for example. Parliament responded with legislation in 1623. "Tax Farming" was another method of handing monopolies to the King's "private" favorites.

3. The various industries Col. Lang describes are on the order of royal monopolies. Instead of salt, or stained glass, or tax farming or whatever we have the various security and enviro and whatever industries nurtured and protected by Congress and the White House. (with our tax money).

4. Always hustlers about with schemes and projects to fleece the public and raid the treasury:

"They will be ever more contriving and forming wicked and dangerous proposals to make the people poor, and themselves rich..."
Trenchard and Gordon, Cato's Letters, No. 17, "What Measures are actually taken by wicked and desperate Ministers to ruin and enslave their country" 18 Feb. 1720.

WP

Pat,

Truly, I do not know how much you have paid, but I know it is huge. It is the essence of your honor, sacrifice for us in war, your committment to challenge bad ideas, and solid integrity that brings me again and again to your blog.

I did not mean to make you think I was preaching to you. I was stating the truth that you know well, silent acquiescence is not honorable or patriotic.

You are one of the few that insist on real honesty and truth telling and we can hope that there are others with you sufficient to protect the fundamental principles of the nation against those who would sell out for profit, personal power, and selfish gain.

I feel honored to write on your blog. It is one of the best!

Cynthia

Colonel,

Employers have every right to fire whistleblowers who leak any kind of information to the press that could tarnish their image and thus hurt their bottom line. But as long as whistleblowers aren't doing anything illegal or aren't harming our national security by leaking information to the press, employers, whether public or private, should never be allowed to throw them into jail for this. So until someone can prove to me beyond any reasonable doubt that what whistleblowers like Shamai Leibowitz and Thomas Drake were doing was either illegal or harmful to our national security, I will continue to believe they were wrongly thrown in jail.

J

Cynthia,

The Colonel is showing the difference between true whistle-blowing and criminal leaking of classified information. Regarding the two you cited -- they committed a crime by leaking classified information. Such is NOT whistleblowing, it is a crime.

For an example of 'whistle-blowing' former NSA Russell Tice 'blew the whistle' on 'illegal' activity, Tice did not disclose classified information. He was 'punished' by NSA for causing them public embarrassment/exposing agency criminal behavior, but they could not charge him for leaking, something he did not do.

WP

"truly criminal activity" and who decides what that is, you?" PL

The answer is the citizen aware of criminal activity. Deciding the right course under such unfortunate circumstances is the citizen's ultimate quandry. I pray I am never in a position where I have to make such a decision.

It is the same problem facing a soldier who receives an illegal order--to obey or refuse. There are no easy answers. The goal is to have a system of checks and balances that handles the issues of criminal activity within the system rather than to place individuals at jeapardy for their decision. The secretiveness of more and more governmental realms makes it less likely that in the long term, long term criminality and corruption can be handled by the self-correcting mechanisms of the system itself.

The polity must address the problem. I do not see that happening right now--the trends are moving in the other direction, more secrecy, more covert power, much fear.

William R. Cumming

Actually WP there is no "federal Bar"! Each government lawyer is a member of a state bar and able to practice therefore in that state and before its highest court and is also subject to its ethics rules-in reality rules of Professional Conduct as adopted by the STATE BAR. But federal lawyers do take an oath of office and slightly different if they are credentialed as are DOJ attorneys or just standard civil service Series 905 attorneys. But basically you are correct. The problem is that different statutes require different things and maybe the Constitutional oath is worth noting:
Article II states in part: "Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmations: "I do sollemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Article VI states in part as follows:
"This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, by any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
The Senators and REpresentative before mentioned, adn the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any office or public Trust under the United States"

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