April 26th, 2006

Question authority: Part I

[This is the first installment of a two-, three-, or possibly even four-part series. I plan to publish the posts in the series on consecutive days.]

The story of the CIA detention centers leak raises issues far bigger than the personal fate of the leaker, or even whether the particular information divulged in this case might have damaged national security.

What could be more important? The old, old question of individual conscience and responsibility.

For a person joining a group that requires confidentiality and/or obedience to a certain set of rules, when is it all right to disobey the rules and/or to break confidentiality? In fact, when does it become a duty to disobey or to break confidentiality? And, if so, how best to go about doing so? And what should the personal consequences be to the person who disobeys?

It’s the same issue raised during the Nuremberg trials, when defendants used the “we were just obeying orders” line as an excuse for egregious crimes against humanity. It’s a question that comes up in the life of nearly every military person, whose duty to obey goes hand in hand with a concomitant duty to disobey what is a clearly illegal order, if such an order should ever be given.

It’s an issue faced by psychotherapists and all others who are privy to confidential information and are duty-bound to protect it for certain obligatory exceptions. For example, ever since the landmark Tarasoff case was decided in 1976, therapists have struggled with the so-called “duty to warn,” which requires them to breach confidentiality whenever they receive credible information that their client is planning to harm another person.

CIA officers and others whose jobs involve national security are in a position of strict confidentiality, and the secrets they are sworn to keep ordinarily involve much higher stakes than therapists ever encounter. In fact, you might say that secrecy is the essence of the work of the CIA; it is impossible to imagine a functional intelligence agency without it.

The question of when and how the individual decides to breach confidentiality and rules is a basic one. If it happens too easily and often, the all-important functioning of institutions such as the military and the CIA is lost, and these vital institutions dissolve into impotent anarchy. If it never happens at all, the unchecked power of such institutions can foster terrible abuses.

Harvard Law professor Martha Minow deals with some of the issues involved in the case of the military in her recent article entitled “Living Up to Rules: When Should Soldiers (and Others?) Disobey Orders?” I confess that I’ve only read the beginning of the article so far (it’s very lengthy), but this quote seemed especially apropos:

Here is the central difficulty: Telling soldiers that they face punishment, unless they disobey illegal orders means telling them to think for themselves, and question authority. Taken to an extreme, directives to “think for yourself” and “question authority” would disturb the command structure and practice of drilled obedience in the military. As one military expert has explained, during military operations decisions, actions and instructions often have to be instantaneous and do not allow time for discussion or attention by committees. It is vital to the cohesion and control of a military fore in dangerous and intolerable circumstances that commanders should be able to give orders and expect their subordinates to carry them out.

All of us are often in a position where we are expected to obey laws, directives from a boss, assignments from teachers or clients, dress codes or the traffic directive of police officers … Even for civilians, individual thought and resistance jeopardizes the order sought by official rules and the rule of law itself.

Obedience seems to have become a bad word, post-baby boomer generation and post-WWII. And rightly so, at least to a certain extent; we’ve seen where absolute and rote obedience can lead. So those “Question Authority” bumper stickers are no joke.

But the kneejerk questioning of authority and the reflexive suspicion of all institutions of government (a suspicion which often amounts to certifiable paranoia; witness the number of emails I receive purporting to explain how Bush was responsible for 9/11), as well as the elevation of individual partisan personal opinion in those making the decision to breach national security, are crippling our ability to effectively fight those who would destroy us.

[Planned subsequent posts in the series (hope I actually get around to all of this!) will deal with issues raised by My Lai, the Ellsberg/Pentagon Papers case, and suggestions for dealing with national security leaks.

Tune in tomorrow for Part II...]

100 Responses to “Question authority: Part I”

  1. Ymarsakar Says:

    Spank’s not a troll. I’m a troll, Spartacus.

    Come on, if Spanky is a troll, I’d have to level up (omg hilarious) to slay him? Last time I did that, I got Player killed in World of Warcraft when the Horde raided the Human Alliance!

    Never again, I am the Troll Now! I think Spank likes being absurd, because presumably he can’t do it in real life without being fired or put into jail. That’s always a party pooper, ya know?

  2. OBloodyHell Says:

    Spanky, I’ve read the first several back and forths in this thread.

    1) Vanderleun is not a troll
    2) YOU, on the other hand, ARE a troll.

  3. douglas Says:

    Fair enough, SB. thanks for the clarification.

  4. neo-neocon Says:

    SB at 9:09 PM: Interesting how you anticipated my post of the next day, about Ridenhour. I even featured the same quote. Guess you read my mind!

  5. Ymarsakar Says:

    Non-disclosure agreements tend to be very effective at enforcing the upkeep of secrets.

    Our society really isn’t run on trust of each other, as trust that enforcement shall be equally applied to each other in cases of violations.

    The contract law is the foundation of this land’s transactions.

    If you choose to live in a rule of law environment, then you must follow the dictates of the law, the contractual law you yourself agreed to of your own free will, or forfeit all benefits thereof.

    He who suffers from the enforcement of law also benefits from the enforcement of law. He who does not suffer from the enforcement of law, should then not benefit from laws being enforced. Whether this is about secrecy or not. The agreement is pretty straightward and it precedes everything else.

    Either something is important to break that fundamental legal contract made earlier, rendering you an outlaw and an outcast, or something is not important enough.

    As the case may be, it isn’t binary. It could be important enough, but a person won’t or can’t leak. It may not be important, and the person still doesn’t leak. It may be important, and he leaks, or it may not be important, and he still leaks. 4 systemic branches.

    2×2 matrix

    The only moral solutions are the important so leak, not important don’t leak ones. That’s 1/2. The immoral solutions are important stuff that you didn’t leak, or unimportant stuff that you leaked.

    “Important” shorthand definition for the phrase “it was important enough to discard the earlier legal binding contract that is the foundation of Western social interactions”.

  6. SB Says:

    dougie,

    If I don’t courageously stand up and state the obvious, who will?

    I wasn’t saying I approve of people following their conscience to the exclusion of all else. Just observing the weakness of the human element in any secrecy system. You can certainly punish a leaker after the fact, and such people should be punished – especially if they work for the CIA. Unfortunately, if you’re punishing somebody it’s already too late.

    My point was that there’s nothing you can do to *prevent* a person within an organization from going public if he or she really wants to. At least nothing we’d care to do to other Americans – like threatening their families, Soviet-style. Even if we did use such severe methods, it still wouldn’t stop some people.

    I guess the real question is, how can you build a system of secret-keeping that takes into account the essential unreliability of its human components? Is it possible to eliminate honor, loyalty, and conscience from the equation? And would Americans want such a system in place in a powerful agency like the CIA?

    I do wonder why McCarthy didn’t do what Ridenhour did – write letters to the appropriate people within the government and let them look into the issue before talking to the press. Or maybe she did write letters, go through channels, got nowhere, and decided to leak as a last resort. We need more info – and I hope it comes out at her trial.

    Since McCarthy’s already been “outed,” as it were, can the reporters involved be called to testify for/against her?

  7. Anonymous Says:

    I question the authority of Public Intellectual Professor Juan Cole.

  8. douglas Says:

    “The burden of secrecy is always on the secret-keepers. If a secret gets leaked, either the secret-keepers weren’t doing their jobs very well or it wasn’t much of a secret in the first place.”

    Uh, I think the problem arises when ONE OF THE SECRET-KEEPERS LEAKS. (Then I suppose you could say they’re not doing they’re job very well…Thanks for stating the obvious sb.)

    “Leaking of this kind is always a matter of individual conscience. At some level, you have to trust people to keep secrets. If they decide not to, there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s simply one of the risks of running a secret operation.”

    I’m not prepared to leave things to the level of somones individual conscience. They’d better try to get some of their co-workers on board if they want to be convincing. Individual consciences may lack all the necessary information to be able to make an informed decision…

    As for “If they decide not to, there’s nothing you can do about it.”, well, sure there is, you can hang them, or at least put them in prison for life. That’s something, isn’t it?

  9. Ymarsakar Says:

    He was, however, reporting the behavior of a small group of men who clearly committed a crime – not the actions of an entire agency carrying out official policy.

    Official policy that was not as severe as My Lai. To fill in what was unsaid.

  10. Spanky the Morbidly Cheerful Says:

    They’ll all be dead? Hurray! Thanks, SB!

  11. SB Says:

    Dry those tears, little Spankeroo.

    Someday we’ll all be dead and gobbled up by worms and nobody will even know those yucky old Republicans ever existed.

  12. SB Says:

    Neo mentioned My Lai as one example of whistleblowing, so I did some googling and found a copy of the letter written by Ron Ridenhour to his congressman. It ends with this paragraph:

    “I have considered sending this to newspapers, magazines and broadcasting companies, but I somehow feel that investigation and action by the Congress of the United States is the appropriate procedure, and as a conscientious citizen I have no desire to further besmirch the image of the American serviceman in the eyes of the world. I feel that this action, while probably it would promote attention, would not bring about the constructive actions that the direct actions of the Congress of the United States would.”

    Sounds like a stand-up guy.

    He was, however, reporting the behavior of a small group of men who clearly committed a crime – not the actions of an entire agency carrying out official policy.

  13. Spanky the Downtrodden Says:

    Aww, Stan. My heart is broken, you big meany

  14. Stan Smith Says:

    I apologize to everyone but Spanky.

    Acts of “conscience” based on partisanship have no place in a democracy, and serve only to undermine what the leakers profess to revere. Those who work in classified environments have the means at their disposal to report criminal activities of the organization. If, as a commenter above has said, the internal mechanisms are compromised or ultimately ineffective at stopping the abuse, then and only then is leaking justified. Otherwise, release of sensitive information is an exercise in the leaker’s narcissism.

    The press, handmaidens to these self-important characters, have lost the ability to distinguish between informing the public and selling advertising. I love the “obnoxious little brother” analogy.

  15. SB Says:

    Still our conversation deteriorates into the routine liberal vs. conservative pissing contest. Learning has ceased. Sad.

    Suggestion:

    Go back a couple of posts and re-read “Some comments on comments” before Neo decides to pull the plug on us…

  16. Stan Smith Says:

    Spanky:

    I said “please”.

    I may be delusional, but you’re still at troll.

    I will now refrain from dealing with you (no doubt you and everyone else will be relieved).

  17. Spanky the Curious Says:

    Stan,

    “If you can’t answer the simple question above, please refrain from commenting.”

    If you think you can boss people around on a blog comment thread, you’re delusional.

    Marty,

    Fair enough. We don’t know if Libby did it, or Rove, or McCarthy. If, as several people with good reason to know have said, Libby, Rove, and McCarthy leaked, do they all deserve to be punished, or just the Democrat?

  18. Stan Smith Says:

    “Consistent? Maybe. Unbiased? Hardly.”

    Yep, Marty, that’s our Spanky.

    And not to mention wrong.

    Troll.

  19. Marty H Says:

    Spanky-

    Your words:

    “But, honestly, I really want to know (from everyone except Vander): does Libby deserve to be punished for leaking? If it turns out Rove did too, does he get the boot? At what point up the ladder does it stop being leaking and become the White House using intelligence to try and discredit its detractors? Naming in public a deep cover operative risks the life of that operative, the contacts that operative has made in the target country, and the entire project around that operative. Isn’t that pretty serious business, too? Or is it only evil bad leaking if the leaker belongs to the other party?”

    There is nothing conditional above. No “if”. In fact, your “too” in the sentence about Rove proves that Libby is guilty in your mind.

    Consistent? Maybe. Unbiased? Hardly.

  20. Stan Smith Says:

    Spanky:

    Still waiting.

    Troll.

  21. Spanky the Consistent Says:

    Huh…so I asked if, whether someone leaked, they deserved to be punished? And then I said someone accused of leaking deserves a fair hearing. Huh…

    So if someone is accused of leaking, they deserve a fair hearing, and if they really did leak, they deserve to be punished.

    My head spins at the inconsistencies!

  22. Marty H Says:

    I’m trying not to feed the provocateur, but when he speaks out both sides of his mouth, someone needs to point it out.

    Spanky convicting someone of a crime they have not been charged with: “….does Libby deserve to be punished for leaking? If it turns out Rove did too, does he get the boot?”

    Spanky, rushing to the defence of McCarthy (whom he righly says has denied leaking the prison story): “Normally we have things like investigations and trials to determine what actually happened.”

    Trying to get back on topic:

    The flip side of “Question Authority” is “Who has credibility?” The reason I read Neo daily is that she puts forth fact based, well reasoned, powerful essays. Reading her body of work over time has made her, if not an authority, someone I trust to approach issues honestly.

    Thanks Neo!

  23. Ymarsakar Says:

    If all the leaker cared about was politics, and she thought people would love the prisons, wouldn’t the leaker keep quiet about them?

    Her politics dictate that the American people cannot like these secret installations. For the States to like it, she would have to be wrong in her politics. Might as well go Verona.

    This is an insult to the thousands of Democrats who are serving in the armed forces against terrorists while you sit in your basement, eating cheetos and playing Quake.

    You mean Battlefield 2.

    It is an insult to the thousands of Democrats who don’t know what their duty is, whether military or not. But thousands aren’t “many” really. Thousands can be safely classified as a “few” when Democrats range in the 50 million voters range.

    Oh, wait, I get it. We’re at war, right? So no matter what the president does, no matter what at all, it’s our “duty” to never question him, ever?

    You read my post about death being lighter than a feather, duty heavier than mountains yet?

    I always thought the sun rose from the West, personally.

    What is East of the Moon and West of the Sun, eh?

  24. Stan Smith Says:

    Spanky:

    Can you answer a simple question? Does the “secret prison” story bother you, and why?

    Obviously, it bothered the NYT and McCarthy (or whoever YOU believe the leaker is) enough to believe that it damages the Administration, precisely BECAUSE it damages our ability to combat terrorism for the reasons I outlined before.

    If you can’t answer the simple question above, please refrain from commenting.

  25. Spanky the Liberal Says:

    “If I heard that from you, I’d want to double check.”

    No, that’s perfectly understandable, Richard, and supports my understanding of the Right as perpectually placing ideology before inconvenient facts and reality.

    Can’t trust a liberal! Never know what crazy stuff we might say.

  26. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Dammit,Spanky. I had hoped to be strong enough to ignore your nonsense.

    Read my post.

    The reason these clowns knew their “concerns” did not meet any legitimate criteria for conscience-related objections is that they did not first go to the established procedures, and then, if they thought it still necessary, leak.

    Those procedures are specifically for concerns such as these morons claim to have. That the morons in question avoided the procedures means they are lying about the basis for their concerns.

    You are just good enough not to be invisible, while not being good enough to convince anybody that the sun rises in the east. If I heard that from you, I’d want to double check.

  27. Spanky the Patriotic Says:

    Woops! Missed a spot.

    “They don’t know what their duty is. And their confusion spreads to outright anarchy in all of America.”

    And you don’t know your ass from your face. The idea that anyone has a duty to refrain from criticizing their elected representatives and the servants of the public is about as anti-American as it gets.

  28. Spanky Says:

    “Not many Democrats understand what duty is.”

    This is an insult to the thousands of Democrats who are serving in the armed forces against terrorists while you sit in your basement, eating cheetos and playing Quake.

    “Is their duty to separate Church and State?”

    If they feel strongly about it, then they should do something about it. But this is relevant…how?

    “Is their duty to protect America by authorizing through fake liberal SC judges to take personal property from Americans?”

    Again, this is relevant how, other than in a general “liberals are evil” sort of way? Isn’t it the job of the Supreme Court to interpret laws according to the Constitution? If this is how the laws and court precedents work, then isn’t it your duty to lobby your representatives to change the laws?

    “Is their duty to attack terroists first, then Bush, or attack Bush first to get the terroists afterwards?”

    If they think that Bush’s policies are ineffective or worse at fighting terrorism, then yes, it is their duty to either try and convince him to change policies, or to convince Americans not to support his policies.

    Oh, wait, I get it. We’re at war, right? So no matter what the president does, no matter what at all, it’s our “duty” to never question him, ever?

    You little fascist freak.

    They don’t know what their duty is. And their confusion spreads to outright anarchy in all of America.

  29. Spanky Says:

    But Stan, how could a leaker hope to make partisan gains from this if people didn’t disapprove of the secret prisons?

    This is the logical conclusion from your argument. If all a leaker wanted to do was win political points, she would have had to believe that the American people wouldn’t like the prisons.

    If all the leaker cared about was politics, and she thought people would love the prisons, wouldn’t the leaker keep quiet about them?

    PS – I love that we’re still talking about McCarthy as the leaker. So far as I know, she has been accused and has denied it. Normally we have things like investigations and trials to determine what actually happened. Are you privy to information that we don’t have? Or does being a Democrat make you guilty regardless? Should we even bother with trials when you obviously don’t need them to know what happened?

  30. Ymarsakar Says:

    Not many Democrats understand what duty is. Is their duty to separate Church and State? Is their duty to protect America by authorizing through fake liberal SC judges to take personal property from Americans? Is their duty to attack terroists first, then Bush, or attack Bush first to get the terroists afterwards?

    They don’t know what their duty is. And their confusion spreads to outright anarchy in all of America.

  31. Stan Smith Says:

    Spanky, 2:55:

    “Because, as far as I can tell, the only way you could argue that their motivations are partisan is that they hurt the Republicans.”

    Well, let’s see…Mary McCarthy contributed $7,500 of her own money to the Kerry campaign. She was placed in the CIA IG department by a Clinton appointee, she’s being defended by Rand Beers, a prominent Democrat attorney with ties to the Kerry campaign, the “leaks” all occurred at times that could be maximally damaging to Republican interests…there are connections between McCarthy and Sandy Berger and the Clintons ad nauseam. Have I left anything out?

    And again, I challenge you to state WHY you think the “secret prisons” story is something that the American people (not just you) find deplorable. Just what is it that rankles you about that particular policy?

  32. Spanky Says:

    “Most of the cases we see so far don’t fit what most folks would consider justified circumstances.
    They’re partisan, ego-tripping, turf-warring crap.”

    I wonder, are you proficient in telepathy?

    Because, as far as I can tell, the only way you could argue that their motivations are partisan is that they hurt the Republicans.

    It’s always possible that the leakers think that the Republicans are doing something legitimately wrong, and that they have a duty to do something about it.

    Or, it’s possible that the leakers are out for partisan gain.

    Again, considering how little any of us actually know about the leakers, the fact that you assume the latter says more about you than it does about the leakers.

    But you’re operating under the assumption that the administration hasn’t, and probably can’t, do anything wrong, so of course any leak that hurts them is partisan, right? It’s not even possible that the Republicans are hurt by the leaks because people don’t like what they’re doing, is it?

    After all, how could these partisans gain politically if the people didn’t object to what was being exposed?

  33. armchair pessimist Says:

    Rich.
    I totally agree. Nelson was a hero; these people are nothing but little bureaucratic maggots. Who they are, why they did what they did, what came of it, all qualify them to hang, as far as I’m concerned.

  34. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Arm.

    You’re right about Nelson.

    However, the point remains that most of his life he followed orders. He was willing, we presume, to suffer the consequences of failure when he disobeyed them. He wouldn’t have expected a book deal.

    My point is that there are few, very few, cases where leaking is justified. Most of the cases we see so far don’t fit what most folks would consider justified circumstances.
    They’re partisan, ego-tripping, turf-warring crap.
    The complete avoidance of the procedures in place for dealing with differences of opinion means quite clearly that the leakers knew their desires did not fit any of the guidelines for legitimate complaint. Otherwise, they’d have tried first, and, if necessary leaked afterwards.

  35. armchair pessimist Says:

    If the aim here is to arrive at some universal principle or rule to tell us when we should or shouldn’t obey authority, that itself would be an authority, which we would then have to decide when to obey and when not to…My head hurts.
    Lord Nelson not only questioned authority, he literally turned a blind eye to it at the Battle of Copenhagen, which he won by flagrantly and openly disobeying orders to break off the attack and to withdraw. For that he was made a viscount; if he had lost, he’d rightly have been hanged. So perhaps these matters are best taken case by case, depending on the person, the motive, and the outcome.
    This isn’t intellectually tidy, but it seems to satisfy that rough but wise master, commonsense.

  36. SB Says:

    The burden of secrecy is always on the secret-keepers. If a secret gets leaked, either the secret-keepers weren’t doing their jobs very well or it wasn’t much of a secret in the first place.

    Leaking of this kind is always a matter of individual conscience. At some level, you have to trust people to keep secrets. If they decide not to, there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s simply one of the risks of running a secret operation.

    The press is the obnoxious little brother who gleefully repeats to your parents or your girlfriend with glee everything you say to him – the more embarrassing to you the better. Nobody with the slightest handle on reality would trust the press to keep a secret – national security or otherwise.

    I agree with previous posters that your attitude about government accountability to its citizens (presumably via the press) depends on how much you fear the government. And, of course, which government you fear most – the Republican one or the Democrat one.

    It’s probably useful to be reminded that, ultimately, it’s all the same government. The more power you give it (either to protect you or to nurture you), the more dangerous it becomes.

    If the CIA wants to bone up on their secret-keeping skillz, they should ask the guys at Area 51 for some pointers. As it is, they seem to be getting their methods from old Secret Squirrel cartoons. Pathetic.

  37. Richard Aubrey Says:

    I believe it was neo who made the observation that conspiracy theories are for people who want to look as if they know more than the rest of us, but don’t want to do the work.

    “Question authority” has some of the same baggage. Makes you look smart and all, without actually requiring you to know anything.

    Societies provide authority with greater or lesser legitimacy. Authority provides rules for ordering society, either as society’s agent (democracy) or ruler (not a democracy).
    In a democracy, authority’s rules ought to be given a certain deference as reflecting the will of the people who have over the years put the authority into place and bound it with other rules.
    Clearly, we do not run plebiscites on obscure regs about classified information. But the elected governments over the years have made the rules as our agents.

    Screwing around with the rules as an ego-trip, or for partisan purposes, or for material gain is an offense against the citizenry’s work in building a society, not to mention the increased danger in war.

    You need to think a hundred times before you do this kind of thing, and if you ignore previously-arranged methods of addressing your concerns, there is no reason to expect anybody to presume you had good motives.

    And to do so supposedly based on conscience being informed by partisan falsehoods doesn’t make it all better.

    I should say, since my back is giving me a bit of trouble today, that trolls do provide a benefit.
    Trying to keep up with moving goalposts and point-dodging keeps me limber, or more so than I might otherwise be.

  38. Harry Mallory Says:

    No Spanky, as you know, whistleblowing isnt just confined to government intelligence agencies or confidential information and the WSJ editorial was just pointing out where the MSM had been taken by partisan hacks.

  39. Spanky Says:

    So wait, let me see if I can understand the Plame issue…

    Plame wasn’t a secret agent, so there was nothing to reveal, but Plame’s status as a secret agent was already well known, and no one revealed that Plame was a secret agent, but Rove revealed Plame was a secret agent because he was a whistleblower.

    Oh, I see.

  40. Harry Mallory Says:

    Then there are those who believe exposing the Wilson/Plame connection as an example of whistleblowing. The WSJ opined that Karl Rove was doing just that when he informed Time’s Matt Cooper of the connection.

  41. Daniel in Brookline Says:

    You know, I’m feeling as though addressing Neo’s original point has become off-topic. But let’s try anyway.

    When I went through Israeli basic training, we were all told specifically that it was up to us and our consciences to disobey a blatantly illegal or immoral order. More specifically, we were told that, if any of us were ever court-martialed for such actions, saying that we were “just obeying orders” would not help us.

    We were not ordered to use judgement, in other words (which is an interesting sort of contradiction, when you think about it). We were told that we might need to use our judgement someday. The desired result, I imagine, was to avoid soldiers questioning every order — but still train soldiers to know, if they’re ever given a monstrous order, that they have legal justification for refusing it.

    (It was also clearly explained that, if a judge disagrees with you over whether your order was in fact illegal or immoral, then you’re likely to do serious jail time. So this is not something done lightly.)

    In my experience, this worked. I came across one or two examples, during my three years in uniform, of Israeli soldiers doing something that was morally questionable — and in all such cases, it was soldiers acting on their own initiative, not soldiers acting under orders. (The soldiers were heavily punished for their actions, as you’d expect… and investigations were launched, just as America did vis-a-vis Abu Ghraib, to see if there were any orders.)

    It’s by no means an easy issue. Personally, I believe that leaking to the press is justified only in the rarest of circumstances — and then only after complaining through official channels, or after determining that official channels are not an option. I have no patience for the sensationalists, who will break their oaths or their conditions of employment, just to see their names in the paper.

    respectfully,
    Daniel in Brookline

  42. grackle Says:

    People will believe Bush destroyed Plame on purpose, regardless of the evidence.

    The thing is, the Bush that could destroy Plame by “outing” her is not the same Bush we see being buried by media propaganda and enemy casualty lists.

    I glimpsed Valerie the other day at an intersection. She was all bedraggled and holding up a sign. Totally destroyed, poor thing. That’s what happens when you get outed. You got to hand it to Bush, give him grudging admiration, even though he’s a liar. Because, man oh man, don’t he know how to vindictively destroy a top secret agent in deep cover.

  43. Anonymous Says:

    I want to memorize every word Ymarksakar says.

  44. Tom Grey Says:

    I actually DO “question authority”, in my mind. This means:
    “How do I know you’re right?”
    Or, usually more relevant and possible, “What facts might show you are wrong?”

    Spanky, the “neo-troll” (on the most appro po blog), fails to give a link to his first Bush quote.

    Not long ago Bush said something I totally agree with:
    “problems originating in a failed and oppressive state 7,000 miles away could bring murder and destruction to our country. Dictatorships shelter terrorists, and feed resentment and radicalism, and seek weapons of mass destruction. Democracies replace resentment with hope, respect the rights of their citizens and their neighbors, and join the fight against terror. Every step toward freedom in the world makes our country safer — so we will act boldly in freedom’s cause.”

    These are “real” quotes, from the gov’t site. Most Lefties seem quite willing to “rewrite” what the President actually says, to be what they say he means. That’s BS; yet often done by the Leftist media.

    One of the reasons for going into Iraq was the threat of WMDs — yet none were found. Bush has already noted he was upset about that.

    Yet most Leftists, if pushed, will admit Saddam was evil. Bush had always claimed it would be good to boot Saddam (notice no quotes — I’m paraphrasing here, but not claiming these are an actual quote.)

    Anybody, and everybody, who claims it was a mistake, implicitly are opposing the action of booting Saddam. I find this morally reprehensible, myself … and that I’m driftin towards more Euston Manifesto issues again…

    I know Bush was right because of what happened — Saddam was booted; Iraq has had elections to choose Constitution writers; an Iraqi-written Constitution was written and approved; and a new gov’t was voted in.

    The Left is whining about WMDs, and leaking whatever they can to embarrass Bush, because they refuse to admit Iraq is looking like a pretty big success.

    The Plame junk is complicated by Libby prolly making non-truthful statements in the investigation, about what he knew, when, and what he said. I think Mary M., in claiming she was not the secret prison leaker, is also making a non-truthful statement, and prolly even a knowingly false statement.

    In the Plame case, there doesn’t seem to be a whistleblower issue — because the leaks were intelligence truths which countered media promoted lied: a) Plame DID recommend hubby Joe Wilson = Wilson was wrong/ lied in his op-ed, b) Iraq DID have reps in commercial talks with Niger, which basically only exports yellowcake = Wilson lied about Iraq not “trying” to buy uranium.

    The final point should be that the Dems should be pushing to make sure that true whistleblowers have more protection, perhaps especially to protect females when their boss, or the President, is looking for special services. Which is why the Dems are NOT introducing more whistleblower protection.

    I haven’t really seen many Dems say the current whistleblower protection is not enough. This leads me to think the Dems & MSM have a double standard — hurt Bush with a leak, it’s OK; help Bush, it’s terrible.

    Um, sounds like Euston complaining about anti-Americanism, which in America is more like Bush Derangement Syndrome = Bush-hate.

  45. Anonymous Says:

    What I wanna know is:

    Who says I should question authority, anyway? Why should I listen to some authority telling me to question authority?

  46. Jack Trainor Says:

    Jack, if you note, that Bush may or may not have lied was not his point. So why address it?

    unknown blogger — Because Spanks did make that tired, faulty point that Bush was either lying or incompetent about WMD, exactly as I quoted, and it does bear directly upon the rationale that those who question the authority of the Bush administration use to justify leaking.

    Without that rationale, this topic becomes much more of a theoretical matter.

    I’m not here to satisfy your agenda and I don’t need any help from you to notice things.

  47. J. Peden Says:

    Early on, when I first saw Wilson make his claims on CSPAN, I wondered immediately how anyone could think the adm. would be so dumb. Outing Plame would have lent credit to Wilson’s report. And if she was covert, the outing would be traced to the adm., because not many people would even know it, and especially any with any possible motive. So why would the adm. do it, or even think of doing it?

    Underestimating the adm. is a foolish mistake, manifested on a prior thread by Spanky’s report of Zawahiri’s secret strategy to get the U.S. to do what it wanted us to do, which Spanky seemed to think we fell for. It never occurred to Spanky that Rumsfeld, enc., know a lot about military strategy.

    In the case of the other leaks I thought the tell-tale feature was that the leakers did not use the whistleblower route. Why not?

  48. Ymarsakar Says:

    I think it’s probably a static situation you can’t change. People will believe Bush destroyed Plame on purpose, regardless of the evidence. But it fits the scenario. Other people will believe something else.

    The thing is, the Bush that could destroy Plame by “outing” her is not the same Bush we see being buried by media propaganda and enemy casualty lists. So there’s a basic inconsistency in the logical axioms, that make it mutually exclusive. But aside from that, the important piece I would want to bring to Neo’s attention is this snippet from a book I read.

    It’s too bad I only just wrote about personal restraint and discipline a few minutes ago. Some people here might have benefited from reading it, before starting in. Oh well. Use steve as the model. By not responding to comments about this or the other, steve maintains his composure and can thus focus his time on talking about what he wants to talk about. Instead of people wasting their time talking about the other person, or this that and the other. Agreement, is not required.

    But steve’s a conserative, even if of the Cold War school, so there you go.

    “We are warriors, we three,” he told them, “yet I think there have been times in this endless war when we have . . . forgotten the reason that we are. I was thinking, as I stood here alone, of other warriors I have known. Of Eeevaan, of course, but also of others long dead. Some of the Zheeerlikou’valkhannaiee, but even more of those who were not. Of Annnngusss MaaacRorrrrry, who I met on your world of New Hebrrrrideeees during the war against the Thebans, Raaymmonnd. And, even more, perhaps, of Ahhdmiraaal Laaantu. Do you know his tale?”

    “Yes,” Prescott said. Every TFN officer knew the story of First Admiral Lantu, the Theban commander who’d fought so brilliantly against the Federation in the opening phases of the Theban War. The admiral who’d led the forces of “Holy Mother Terra” to one stunning triumph after another and fought even Ivan Antonov to a near draw. And the greatest “traitor” in Theban history.

    “I hated him,” Kthaara said quietly. “I blamed him for the death of my khanhaku, for it was units under his command who destroyed my cousin’s squadron in the very first battle of the Theban War, and they did so by treachery. Looking back from today, it would be fairer to say he did so in a surprise attack, but I did not know—then—that Laaantu believed he was already at war against the Zheeerlikou’valkhannaiee, and so I was consumed by my hatred for his ‘treachery.’ Indeed, it was my need to seek vilknarma which first brought Eeevaan and me together. But in the end, Laaantu taught me the true duty of a warrior, for he betrayed all he had ever known, the faith in which he was raised, even the farshatok whom he had led into battle, because he had learned what none of them knew—that the ‘Faith of Holy Mother Terra’ was a lie. That the chofaki who ruled his people had used that lie to manipulate them for seventy of your years and then to launch them in a war of conquest. It was a war they could not win—not in the long run—and Laaantu knew what a terrible price would be exacted from his people if they fought to the bitter end. If their false leaders refused to surrender and Eeevaan was forced to bombard his world from orbit. And so he joined his enemies and aided them in every way he could, fighting to defeat his own people. Not for any personal gain, but because only by defeating them quickly and with as few Human casualties as possible could he hope to protect them from the consequences of their rulers’ actions.

    “And when I realized what he was doing, and why, I could no longer hate him, mightily though I tried. Oh, how I cherished my hate! It had kept me warm, filled me with purpose and the passion of rage, and in the end, the killer of my khanhaku had taken even that from me, for he had reminded me that the true warrior fights not from hate, but from love. Not to destroy, but always and above all to preserve. Do you understand that, Raaymmonnd?”

    The Shiva Option by David Weber and Steve White

    The real life scenario is of course, Emperor Hirohito. I do believe Neo would see the connecting traits, because we’ve corresponded somewhat concerning this subject.

    For those who are not conversant with the subject, you’ll just have to read MacArthur’s words here.

    MacArthur

    People who make promises and break them, dishonor themselves. In return for what?

    “No,“ Antonov said flatly. “There is an answer. There is no such thing as a perfect defense – not when the attacker has data this complete and the services of the enemy’s best and most senior commander.“

    “Best commander?“ Lantu repeated dully. He shook his head. “No, Admiral. You have the services of a fool. A pathetic simpleton who was asinine enough to think his people deserved to survive.“ He stared down at his hands, and his voice fell to a whisper. “I have become the greatest traitor in Theban history, betrayed all I ever believed, sacrificed my honor, conspired to kill thousands of men I trained and once commanded – all for a race so stupid it allowed five generations of charlatans to lead it to its death.“ His hands twisted in his lap.
    “Do what you must, Admiral Antonov. Perhaps a handful of the People will live to curse me as I deserve.“

    The humans in the room were silenced by his agony, but Kthaara’zarthan leaned forward, eyes fixed on Lantu’s face, and gestured to his interpreter.
    “I would like to tell you a story, Admiral Laaantu,“ he said quietly, and Lantu looked up in astonishment sufficient to penetrate even his despair as, for the first time ever, Ktnaara spoke directly to him

    “Centuries ago, on Old Valkha, there was a khanhar – a war leader. His name was Cranaa’tolnatha, and his clan was sworn to the service of Clan Kirhaar. Cranaa was a great warrior, one who had never known defeat in war or on the square of honor, and his clan was linkar’a id Kirhaar, Shield-Bearer to Clan Kirhaar. Clan Tolnatha stood at Clan Kirhaar’s right hand in battle, and Cranaa was Clan Kirhaar’s shartok khanhar, first fang of all its warriors, as well as those of Clan Tolnatha.

    “But the Khanhaku’a Kirhaar was without honor, for he betrayed his allies and made himself chofak. None of his warriors knew it, for he hid his treachery, yet he spied on those who thought themselves his farshatok, selling their secrets to their enemies. And when those enemies moved against them, he called Cranaa aside and ordered him to hold back the warriors of Clan Tolnatha while he himself commanded Clan Kirhaar’s. Clan Tolnatha was to lie hidden, he told Cranaa, saved until the lastm oment to strike the enemy’s rear when their allies – including Clan Kirhaar – feigned flight.“

    He paused, and Lantu stared at him, muzzle wrinkled as he tried to understand.

    “Now, Cranaa had no reason to think his khanhaku’s orders were a lie, but he was a skilled warrior, and when he considered them they made no sense. His forces would be too far distant to intervene as ordered, for by the time messengers reached him and he advanced, the feigned flight would have carried the battle beyond his reach. Ana as he studied his khanhaku’s commands, he realized that a ‘feigned flight’ was no part of their allies’ plans. The battle was to be fought in a mountain pass, and if they yielded the pass they would be driven back against a river and destroyed.

    “All but Clan Kirhaar,’ Kthaara said softly, “for they formed the reserve. They would be first across the river’sonly bridge, and it was they who had been charged with mining that bridge so that it might be blown up to prevent pursuit. Ana when Cranaa realized those things, he knew his khanhaku had betrayed him and all his allies. Clan Tolnatha would advance but arrive too late, and it would be destroyed in isolation. Clan Kirhaar would fall back, and his khanhaku would order the bridge destroyed’to hold the enemy,’ and thus deliver his allies to their foes. And when the battle was over, there would be none alive to know how his khanhaku had betrayed them.

    “But Cranaa had sworn hirikolus to his khanhaku, and to break that oath is unthinkable. He who does so is worse than chofak – he is dirguasha, outcast and outlawed, stripped of clan, cut off from his clan fathers and mothers as the prey of any who wish to slay him. There is no greater punishment for the Zheeerlikou valkhannaieee. Before we suffer it, we will die at our own hand.
    “Yet if he obeyed, Cranaa’s clan would die, and its allies, and the traitor would wax wealthy and powerful upon their blood. And so Cranaa did not obey. He broke his oath of hirikolus – broke it not with proof he could show another, but on the truth he knew without proof.

    He refused to lead his clan into battle as he was commanded, but chose his own position and his own time to attack, and so won the battle and saved his clan.

    “And in doing so, he made himself dirguasha. He could not prove his khanhaku’s treachery, though few doubted it. Yet even had he been able to do so, it would not have saved him, for he had thrown away his honor. He was cast out by his own litter mates, outlawed by the allies he had saved, deprived of his very name and driven into the waste without food, or shelter, or weapons. A lesser warrior would have slain himself, but to do so would be to admit he had lied and cleanse his khanhaku’s name, so Cranaa grubbed for food, and shivered in the cold, and starved, and made his very life a curse upon his khanhaku’s honor. And so, when he was sick and alone, too weak to defend himself, his traitor khanhaku sent assassins, and they slew him like an animal, dragging him to death with ropes, denying him even the right to die facing them upon his feet.

    “Thus Cranaa’tolnatha died, alone and despised, and his bones were gnawed and scattered by zhakleish. Yet all these centuries later, the Zheeerlikou’valkhannaieee honor his courage… and not even Clan Kirhaar recalls his khanhaku’s name, for they have stricken it in shame. He was a traitor, Admiral Laaantu – but our warriors pray to Hiranow’khanark that we, too, may find the courage to be such traitors if we must.“

    From Crusade, by david weber and steve white

    The only justification to break your sworn word, is duty. Duty to a higher cause, to the preservation of your people. It is the meaning behind, death is lighter than a feather, duty heavier than mountains. Death is quick, sometimes painful sometimes not. Duty requires you to withstand much more agony, because it requires you to live, and living hurts. But it is the only game in town, if you seek to effect change.

    If you ever watched Babylon 5 and saw the Civil War story arc with Sheridan vs President Clark. You would realize that the conflict of loyalties within a nation mirrors this choice of choices. Is your loyalty to the nation, or is your loyalty to your sworn oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign or domestic? Robert E. Lee asked himself a similar question, and he said his loyalty was to his state. But regardless of what choice you make, one or another oath will be broken.

    It is one reason why the military does not promise loyalty to the President, but to the Constitution. It is always a good idea to reduce the risk for a conflict of loyalties. Try to avoid conflicts of interests. It’s not a good idea to require people to betray their family to do the right thing, because there are not a lot of people who will betray their families to do the right thing. So it is best not to count on it as a societal model.

    What about the CIA leaks? It’s hard for people to justify their breaking of their promises, when they don’t even understand the concepts of honor, duty, or loyalty. The military does understand, and that’s why the military can do its duty and still remain loyal, because the institution understands conflicts of loyalty and how to resolve them. Because they understand what their duty is, does the CIA?

    Spies function on the basis of lies and disinformation, on the breaking of oaths and the betrayal of networks they seek to infiltrate. Soldiers operate on fullfilling their promises. You see the fundamental difference. There are spies with honor, of course, but not when they’re playing on different teams. As the military and the CIA are doing, they’re playing on different teams.

  49. Harry Mallory Says:

    gcotharn, you did scare me for a bit.

    Anyway, doesnt the PATRIOT Act remove the Gorelick wall? I thought it had. If so, what’s all the fuss about?

  50. Stan Smith Says:

    Spanky 9:39:

    You may have misunderstood. I was referring to the governments of our allies, which may or may not be “democratic polities”, whose citizens might not agree with interrogating terror suspects (think Middle Eastern allies, here). And just where is the population’s “need to know” in this respect? The interrogations aren’t necessarily against the law, are they? Or must we question, like Cardinal Fang, using the “comfy chair”?

    And for someone who theoretically read the post upon which these comments were based, calling someone an “oddball” when responding to a reasonable argument, is, well, a little rude.

    Again, most here are actually attempting to discuss the questions thoughtfully proposed by neo, not merely spouting talking points discredited months ago.

  51. gcotharn Says:

    btw, Harry, I was just kidding.

    I will not let this FISA slander go by again. Bush did not break any FISA laws. Bush did not go around any FISA laws. No FISA judges are asserting that Bush either broke or went around FISA law. FISA judges are complaining that Bush turned over leads on the American parties on international calls to the FBI; and the FBI then went to FISA to request wiretaps on some (less than 12 per year) of these American parties to international calls. The FISA judges believe this is a breach of the Gorelick Wall, and that the FBI ought not request wiretaps on these individuals. Second, anonymous FBI agents complained to NYT that they were having to track too many unfruitful terror leads. That is your fake FISA scandal in a nutshell.

    The real scandals are:
    1) the way this has been played in the MSM and on Capitol Hill, and
    2) that FISA judges are attempting to singlehandedly defend the Gorelick Wall(in defiance of higher court instruction not to do so).

    The White House has stated, repeatedly, and officially on the record, they have not wiretapped American citizens without a warrant(except where Americans were caught up in an international call from a specifically targeted source – which is a wiretap of that international source – not the American citizen).

    When someone says Bush broke FISA law, or evaded FISA law, they are disseminating false information. I know they don’t want to do that, and will stop doing so in the future.

  52. Anonymous Says:

    Darrell put the finishing touches on it and pretty much sang in the absence of a fat lady. There are red herrings and plain old sardines and what ran for the cover of darkness and what ran for the exposure of light over Plame’s so called outing was invaluable. Imagine a desk-bound, embassy-taggedCIA employee being a covert operative – oh the machinations of the Left. Classified paperwork from other allied nations requesting the presence of certain known and certain suspected terrorists for interrogation on THEIR turf now becomes the basis for a network of secret prisons. Ooooooh! pitter-patter, pitter-patter, hear the sound of little feet scurrying for cover in the shadows – now that is what in-house spookery is all about, folks. And besides, who is to complain if allies hook electrodes to the nuts of a terr and an operation disrupted or some unknown players are tagged or some taken out? I guess the UN could issue a condemnation over it, or at least have some kind of human rights commission hold press conferences. That’s always meaningful, significant and pleasing to the Left. If allies want to play hard-ball with terrs, it’s no skin off our nose – it is nice of them to invite some of the boys over to observe and take notes though, but then, what are allies for anyway?
    Best regards ~ Sparky and His Gang
    (acutally it’s me, goesh)

  53. gcotharn Says:

    To my friend Harry Mallory:

    The Dems would call an international conference, where they would speak sternly, but without arrogance. They would create a wider international coalition, except where they wisely acted unilaterally. These steps would resolve the jihadi problem.

  54. DanMyers Says:

    Spanky,

    “The fact that you see criticism of a crime as political says more about you than the Democrats.”

    Impeach him then.. Don’t blog your opinion, go out and lead the impeachment effort. Are you trying to convince us?

  55. Spanky the Lawful Says:

    Harry, Bush broke the FISA law. THe FISA law exists specifically to prevent what Bush did. If Bush thought the wiretaps were necessary to secure America, there’s a fun thing called the legislative process through which he could have tried to change the law. If anyone is critical of Bush for breaking the law, it might not be political, it might be because they don’t like it when people break the law.

    The fact that you see criticism of a crime as political says more about you than the Democrats.

  56. DanMyers Says:

    darrell,

    You said – “All cleared personnel have avenues to report wrongdoing or illegal acts and the key point is none of them include the media, there is the inpector general,” snip.

    You have stated exactly what was so aggregious about Ms. McCarthy’s “leak”, if she actually was the leaker. She was in the IG staff….

  57. Harry Mallory Says:

    One of the first things I thought when the NSA wire-tapping story went public was; “My God! Now what would Democrats use to fight the GWOT if, (GFB), they ever win an election? After all, they got to fight this thing too, and they have to use the same tools. Except now, they’ve been compromised.

    Was this really worth it in order to score political points?

  58. Darrell Says:

    Ok, on topic, I suggest everyone review the SF-312 http://www.dss.mil/files/pdf/new_sf312.pdf
    Everyone that has a clearance has to sign one of these. I used to be responsible for getting these signed and maintaining the file of them on all of our cleared personnel.
    On the subject of whistleblowing, review the last paragragh. All cleared personnel have avenues to report wrongdoing or illegal acts and the key point is none of them include the media, there is the inpector general, congressional committees, FBI, Justice department etc. you can report to and still keep the info classified and not violate anything.
    There is also a huge differance between reporting witnessing an atrocity or illegal act and divulging national security issues because “you” perceive them to be wrong. Under no circumstances is it ok to go to the press, if all of the proper avenues are exhuasted and nobody takes any action chances are the problem is with the person complaining. Any accusation of wrong doing is taken very seriously today and if there is a smidgen of credibility it will be looked into. There is no ethics or moral question here period. Everything is spelled out in the rules and there is NO wiggle room here.
    CWO3

  59. Spanky Says:

    Stan,

    I’m really at a loss for words. You argued that the threat from exposing secret prisons was that the population might oppose them, forcing the government to close them and losing an opportunity to acquire intelligence.

    I argued that this is was a bad argument to oppose leaks; if the people in a democratic polity oppose the government’s intelligence gathering methods, then the government needs to find another way of getting the intel.

    And you respond by…attacking me for opposing secret prisons? Huh? You realize that you’re attacking me for…paraphrasing you?

    Oddball.

    Richard…dear Richard…Iraq not only didn’t have nuclear weapons, it didn’t even have a nuclear weapons program. I know this is radically off topic, and I get yelled at for this all the time, but Richard, they had nothing. If you want to argue that, say, Bush had other reasons for going to war but didn’t mention them, then that’s not exactly a resounding reason to trust him in the future, is it? But if that was Bush’s reason for going to war – the threat from a nonexistent Iraqi WMD program – then he was either wrong or lying. Those are the basic conclusions that people usually come to when someone says “X” and then it turns out that, really, “not X”.

  60. Richard Aubrey Says:

    I recall “question authority” back in the Sixties. It hasn’t changed.

    The point is that authority is always wrong and questioning it is always right. Facts are not welcome.

    When somebody comes up with a marvelous new idea and notes that people laugh at him, he may say that people laughed at Einstein and, possibly, Henry Ford. But people also laughed at Bozo the Clown.
    Being laughed at doesn’t make you automatically smarter than everybody else, being in the minority doesn’t make you automatically in the elite, being laughed at allows that you might be Bozo the Clown, and questioning authority doesn’t mean you’re right and authority is wrong.

    We see some bogus arguments here. Bush invaded Iraq because he thought Iraq had a nuclear weapons program, and, by golly, no nuclear weapons. As if that makes any sense.
    If they’re developing nuclear weapons, that means THEY DON’T HAVE THEM. What would you expect to find? If the Iraqis had the nuclear weapons, they wouldn’t have a development program.
    People who make that argument generally show by the rest of their arguments that they’re not dumb. They don’t make arguments like that in good faith and ignorance. They attempt to mislead.
    There is no reason to engage with people who obviously attempt to mislead.

    Bogus argument deployed in a venue where the rest of the folks are too smart.

  61. Marty H Says:

    Unknown-

    Adressign your second question:

    2. Should the leaker of the Plame info, whoever it may turn out to be, be held to the same standard of contempt you have for other leakers?

    No. “Leaking” isn’t the problem. Leaking classified info is. Fitzgerald is charged with sorting out what happened in the Plame case, and he has declined to charge anyone with leaking classified information.

    Of course, if he charged someone in the future, my answer would change because the facts in evidence have changed. That’s the definition of rational behavior. But as the facts in evidence stand, the Plame leaker and the secret prisons leaker have done two totally different acts, and so should be treated differently.

    Marty H

  62. snowonpine Says:

    Most of the necessary information about most anything is in the public domain, perhaps 95+ percent. A lot is in plain sight but overlooked and the challenge is to design a search strategy to find that particular information. Sometimes its how creative/insightful you are in connecting the not so obvious correct dots.

  63. gcotharn Says:

    Posts. I meant to say I look forward to these posts. I like the comment threads – but I like them on speed read only – with an occasional slowing down, and savoring.

  64. gcotharn Says:

    I look forward to these threads. Coming out of college, and going into business, I was surprised at the how frequently ethical dilemmas appeared; and at how difficult and gray they were to navigate. I had naively imagined I could skip through the world, and the my good intentions would ensure clean hands. WRONG. How often my head was (and still is) overloaded with trying to figure out which action was(is) the ethical and moral action.

  65. Stan Smith Says:

    “the people might learn what their government is doing and disapprove, forcing their government to stop.”

    What part of “secret prisons” do you disapprove of? That they’re “secret”? That they’re “prisons”? That interrogations are being conducted? That you didn’t get to vote on it? That you didn’t get to sit behind the one-way glass and say, “He’s the perp all right. The guy’s GOING DOWN!”?

  66. Stan Smith Says:

    “Oh, and by the way, not all leaks are equal. You can’t leak information that’s in the public domain in the first place, or that is unclassified, for example. “

    Yep, Plame case.

    “and whether the information leaked is about a clear, very serious, and unequivocal violation,”

    Yep, My Lai.

    “or just about a policy with which the leaker happens to disagree and think is wrong”

    Yep, NSA AQ wiretapping, secret prisons.

    I’ll say it again: leak (preferably blow the whistle within the organization) if laws are broken, otherwise, shut up.

  67. Spanky Says:

    Oh, I see. The danger of a leak, Stan, is that the people might learn what their government is doing and disapprove, forcing their government to stop.

    Isn’t that the way a democray works? This isn’t really an argument against leaking, it’s an argument for making sure a democracy polity knows as little as possible about the actions of its government in order to make that government unaccountable to its people.

    Certainly there are better arguments against leaking than this.

  68. neo-neocon Says:

    Oh, and by the way, not all leaks are equal. You can’t leak information that’s in the public domain in the first place, or that is unclassified, for example. And the seriousness of the leak depends on a number of other factors, including how deeply the disclosure might be expected to impact national security, to whom it is leaked (the Congressional oversight committee vs. the press, for example), and whether the information leaked is about a clear, very serious, and unequivocal violation, or just about a policy with which the leaker happens to disagree and think is wrong

  69. The probligo Says:

    Hope springs eternal, huh Jack?

    I think it duplicitous to ignore the “evidence” presented to UNSC – which was entirely and solely about WMDs.

    I think it duplicitous to use “justifications” not mentioned until after the event.

    To get back to the general question that neo asked…

    Yes, at all levels, at all times, there is conflict between “expectations of others” and “personal conscience and responsibility”.

    It starts in childhood – the old “orchard raid” or “gang bullying” dilemmas. DO you act with the gang, or stand to one side, or decide to oppose?

    It stays in adulthood – the actions of co-workers and bosses, actions which might range from immoral to completely illegal.

    Interesting that neo mentions “Tarasov”.

    How is about the lawyer who is told by his client of an impending illegal act.

    Or the priest receiving confession from a murderer?

  70. Stan Smith Says:

    “1. How exactly, as Neo asserted in her post, are leaks crippling our ability to defend ourselves?”

    Okay, here’s how. In re the “secret prisons” leak: we are utilizing the intelligence services of allies to conduct interrogations of terrorist suspects in countries other than the US, whose populations may or may not be as sympathetic to the GWOT as ours (which is to say, apparently, not much). These countries find it difficult to continue to cooperate if their cooperation is “outed” by a leaker; we lose the ability to gain valuable intelligence about the enemy’s operations; the enemy’s operations succeed; people die. That’s one way. There are many others along the same lines. Face it, folks, intelligence only works if it’s secret…otherwise everybody knows what you’re up to. And if it’s Abu Ghraib, then, yes, we need to know about it…and we DID, based on internal Army sources, who began an investigation before anything came out in the papers. I would postulate that America was harmed far more by the worldwide release of that data than by the actions of a few rogue soldiers, who would have been punished “through channels” anyway.

    And I’m sure there are those who don’t believe that, so I’ll allow for your dissent, and the possibility that the Army would have covered the whole mess up. But the leak in that case was unnecessary (though justified—crimes had been committed)…the machinery was already in motion to stop the abuse.

    If I said that it’s no accident that we haven’t had another 9/11 due to intelligence, it’s guaranteed that there would be those among you who would scoff and say, “Sure, he’s going to say that, because there’s no way to rebut it,” but you know what? That’s the way it’s SUPPOSED to be, when those whom we charge with the job keep their traps shut.

  71. neo-neocon Says:

    Threads can only be hijacked with the cooperation of the commenters.

    Ignore anyone you think is hijacking a thread.

  72. the unknown Blogger Says:

    Jack said:

    Oh good grief. We’ve been through this in neo’s blog and elsewhere a million times.

    Jack, if you note, that Bush may or may not have lied was not his point. So why address it?

    There are two questions here everyone:

    1. How exactly, as Neo asserted in her post, are leaks crippling our ability to defend ourselves? Stan says it is so because he heard it from a friend. That ok with everyone?

    2. Came up in the course of the discussion but noone has taken it on directly either: Should the leaker of the Plame info, whoever it may turn out to be, be held to the same standard of contempt you have for other leakers?

    Now go to it.

    The Unknown Referee

  73. Brad Says:

    Dear God,
    I used to be a fan of the comments section here, but this is BS! Yes, the spanky character is mildly amusing (although not interesting or insightful), but only for so long; and the time is up.

  74. Stan Smith Says:

    “Stan, re cell phones and OBL: Doesn’t that story just sound tooo deliciously good to be true?”

    Yeah, except I heard it from someone who was in country and doing the business at the time. It’s true.

  75. the unknown Blogger Says:

    Stan, re cell phones and OBL: Doesn’t that story just sound tooo deliciously good to be true?

    http://www.truthdig.com/
    report/item/osama_sat_phone_20060110/

  76. Stan Smith Says:

    Oh yeah, and thanks, Spanky for hijacking the thread about leaking.

    Apropos of which: there are lots ‘o’ fun connections for conspiracy theorists surrounding this latest Mary McCarthy revelation…much to do with the former administration, one senator whose initials are JFK, and all the spayshul little linkies to the Democratic party.

    http://justoneminute.typepad.com/main/2006/04/if_it_is_worth_.html

    http://www.americanthinker.com/comments.php?comments_id=4971

    A little over the top for me…but still …?

  77. david Says:

    just read the article and can recommend it. A long piece covering history, psychology and the law.

    This, relatively short quote shows some of the complexities of the issue outlined by the writer.

    First, if the line between legal and illegal orders is this ambiguous, I think that should be addressed and resolved directly by military authorities rather than indirectly by inviting soldiers to police the borderline cases. Second, if the problem is not ambiguity but instead the courage to dissent and act on conscience, soldiers will need direct and repeated training to cultivate conscience and dissent. It seems highly implausible that soldiers would react to greater liability for obeying orders whose legality is at issue by engaging in more debate among themselves. They would have to risk bucking peer disapproval.
    Third, it is far from clear that such debate would produce more resistance to illegal orders rather than more mutual reinforcement to follow orders. Fourth, rules ratcheting up the focus on potentially illegal orders is likely to generate fewer explicit orders altogether. Commanders would risk liability for command responsibility and they could well seek the deniability afforded by ambiguous orders.

    a little thought. Perhaps if the law made commanding and senior commanding officers responsible for the wrongdoing of frontline troops then maybe less would take place. As it stands in both the UK, and US military it is the lowest ranks who are getting into trouble. Whereas, given the lack of legal framework that much recent military action has taken place in, perhaps it should be the highest ranks who are put on trial.

    To put the pressure on frontline troops to disobey illegal orders takes away the pressure from those at the top not to give them.

  78. Jack Trainor Says:

    Either he was lying, or he was wrong. A president who lies his way into a war shouldn’t be trusted. A president who mistakes his way into the war shouldn’t be trusted.

    Oh good grief. We’ve been through this in neo’s blog and elsewhere a million times.

    First, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Not without reason, I still suspect that Iraqi WMD are going to be discovered in Syria or elsewhere.

    Second, if Bush was mistaken, almost everyone else–including Hussein’s staff and the Demo leadership–were mistaken too.

    If Bush is going to be mistaken in such matters, I’d prefer that he err on the side of caution. Hussein was a monster who had had WMD, had used WMD, and still wanted WMD and it was up to Hussein to demonstrate that he was abiding by the terms of the Gulf War ceasefire to and a dozen of so other UN resolutions to relinquish WMD, but he didn’t.

    Third, we did not go to war only over WMD. There were many other serious items in the “Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq” that were not about WMD.

    Frankly I consider it duplicitous of those oppose Bush and the Iraq War to reframe the debate as though it were only about WMD and that Bush lied.

  79. snowonpine Says:

    The “belief” of the leaker reminds me of an interesting story about belief told to me by my Professor of Japanese History. The Professor, who spoke perfect Tokyo Japanese, got lost in the countryside one day and he stopped next to a farmer’s field to ask for directions. The Professor asked for directions in his perfect Japanese and the farmer gave him a blank look and then said in Japanese, “I don’t understand English.” My teacher asked for directions several times again and even asked the farmer to watch his lips as he spoke but, the farmer apparently believed so firmly that Westerners couldn’t speak Japanese, that he simply couldn’t hear or see it when it was spoken by my teacher. I have run into a few other examples like this over the years.

    I wonder if the leakers convince themselves so firmly, that they are right and that their government is wrong, that no amount of information to the contrary, no matter how objectively credible, would ever be accepted?

    Of course, cynical old me tends to think that, in most cases, personal advancement and/or partisan advantage are all too frequently in the mix to a greater or lesser extent. I would think that if this were a matter of deeply held principle for a leaker, if he thought he really had no other choice morally than to leak a piece of information, he would be willing to take whatever punishment was coming for his knowing action. But I notice leakers try to wiggle out of punishment if possible.

  80. Stan Smith Says:

    Again, Spanky: the Plame case is not a crime, because Valerie was NOT a “deep cover” agent. Revealing that she worked for the CIA was not a crime. Libby is being indicted for a non-crime crime, and Fitz knows it, even if you don’t. I’m not going to waste time on this anymore.

    If you lived in the time of Copernicus, and “knew” that the world was flat, because everybody else said so, including the most learned men of the time, would you be guilty of “lying”? Just asking.

  81. Holmes Says:

    It’s a contradiction to want to exonerate the current prison leaker and not Libby in the court of public opinion. If you want them both to pay for breaking the law, then I can see that.

    I’ll concede that if Libby did actually violate and knowingly reveal secret information, then yes, he should pay. There is a lot of question as to whether all the elements of the statute were actually breached. But if they were, then yes- punishment. There is a lot of debate about that though, as you know. And whether this CIA covert operative law actually applies both to Libby (as a non-CIA person) and to the circumstances in general. But, that aside…

    In the current leaker case, it was confidential information that was knowingly given out from a position that deals with secret information.
    You seem to think, that while a person should pay if they do that and it violates the law or their office, it can still be justified, perhaps as long as it doesn’t “cripple” our national security. That is the debate here. Anything else is tangential.

  82. Spanky the Just Says:

    Oh Stan, you don’t know the half of it. Bush took us to war because, he argued, Iraq was building WMDs it could hand over to a terrorist group.

    Either he was lying, or he was wrong. A president who lies his way into a war shouldn’t be trusted. A president who mistakes his way into the war shouldn’t be trusted. A Congress that follows along doesn’t deserve to be trusted either. There, we agree on something.

    Stan, I wonder why, if Libby did not reveal Plame’s status, he is now telling lawyers that the Vice President authorized him to reveal Plame’s status. Because apparently, his indictment is made up! Wow, what a kookie world we live in, in which people who didn’t commit crimes claim responsibility for those crimes!

  83. Spanky the Straightforward Says:

    Actually Holmes, what I said was (and you can read it above):

    “The only person who can make the decision to leak is the leaker who leaks the leaked leak. They have to decide based on their conscience. If they are, in fact, revealing crimes, they should be covered by whitleblower laws. If they’re simply trying to expose what they find unjust but legal, then that’s their thing too – but they also have to pay the penalty for doing that.”

    Couldn’t be much simpler, could it? If you break a law, you get punished, unless you’re covered by whistleblower laws that deal explicitly with exposing crimes.

    I’m not really sure how saying that contradicts saying that, but ok…

  84. Stan Smith Says:

    “Cite some examples”

    One: AQ was previously conducting much of its communciations using cell phones. Most folks are unaware that cell phones are merely small radios, and totally unsecure. News media reports broadcast that we were deriving great intelligence from signals intercepts of cell phone traffic…AQ ceased using cell phones, just as we were closing in on OBL.

    And Spanky, Valerie was traipsing around Washington blatantly advertising her relationship with Joe Wilson, huge numbers of folks knew she was CIA, she hadn’t been out of the country in “deep cover” for more than 5 years. PLEASE get your facts straight. This is getting tiresome. Libby didn’t “obstruct justice” or “out” a deep cover agent. There’s no crime there, and Fitz is scrambling to find something, ANYTHING, to keep his crumbling case alive. Tim Maguire is all over this, it’s been done to death, and there’s NO STORY.

    The President said (paraphrasing now), “we don’t want to wait until Iraq has nukes before we do something about it”, not “Iraq is two days away from the Bomb, so let’s roll.” Every intelligence agency on earth was saying Saddam had WMD. That’s hardly “misleading” a nation into war. God, it’s so d**n frustrating saying the same FACTS to you people over and over again. You don’t like the fact we went to war, fine. You don’t like the way it’s being prosecuted, fine, but for heaven’s sake, Congress voted on going to war, and if they’re all so easily duped, we’re in deep yogurt.

  85. Holmes Says:

    Alright, one question to Spanky if that is the case and you are taking a principled stand- shouldn’t there be no problem with either leak? I mean, if Libby was just acting according to conscience to try to show that Joe Wilson was a biased person and how he was not qualified for his “mission.” Certainly he should have the ability to leak too right? You’ve totally contradicted yourself based on your own political motives and then accused others of doing the same.

  86. Anonymous Says:

    Leaks are a function of the media, not of covert ops. They are a symptom of a sick institution, but the virus is spread by a media whos first priority is not the national good but instead the mythical Fourth Estate.

    Confidential organizations…i.e. the CIA needs to crack whips and heads anytime a leak occurs. If leaks occur with frequency, and are not handled, the org is sick.

    But the instigator is the media. A media that concerned itself for its reader/viewership first, and viewed itself as American first, journalist second, would go a long way toward continuing to blow the whistle on corruption without treating classified “leaks” like they were news relevant to the nation (they aren’t. They are news HARMFUL to the nation.)

    The media has fallen for the myth that its “higher calling” is somehow greater and beyond the nation it serves…the so-called “fourth estate,” the traditional dog-watcher of the clergy, nobility and priveleged middle class…

    If they are the watchmen, who watches them?

  87. Holmes Says:

    I was going to write something, but realized this is going to end up absurd. Besides, I should be studying.

  88. Spanky the Funk Master Says:

    It’s an honest question. Leakers be damned, the gist of it seems to be. But what happens when national security secrets are exposed by people playing for your team? Nary a harsh word for that. It would seem that a principled stand against leaks would be critical of both. I suspect that it’s anything but principled, though.

  89. the Unknown Blogger Says:

    See, to me it is Vander here who is hijacking the comments thread to pursue his own agenda. Spanky clearly never asserted Bush lied. And Vander is wasting thread space presuming to know Spanky’s true motives for asking a question, rather than either ignoring it or answering it.

    I call foul.

    In the meantime we are all still waiting for someone to tell us precisely how leaking is crippling our ability to fight those who would destroy us. Stan would you care to cite some examples?

    PS: I love the “straw dog” fallacy though!

  90. Spanky Says:

    So, let me try to understand your view of leaks:

    The announcement that the US is wiretapping al Qaeda phones: shocking news to al Qaeda!

    The revealing of a deep cover CIA agent: not an issue.

    The issue of Plame isn’t whether she was working for the CIA or not; lots of people work for the CIA and lots of people know about it. The question is over whether that person is known as a “mid-level functionary” (cute way of describing a lot of people who keep you alive) or as a deep cover agent. She was.

    Oh, and PS – I never brought up the 16 words, you did. The justification for the war in Iraq – the reasoning that the president used to win support from the American people for the war – was that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons and that, if they did, they would give them to terrorists. Recall that we didn’t want the “smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud”?

    Oh how quickly we forget.

    I consider Vander a troll because he didn’t actually try to rebutt anything I said, but simply a bunch of platitudes and vague assertions. Meh.

  91. Stan Smith Says:

    RE: leaking classified information. My opinion is that it is never justified, unless the information leaked involves a serious crime (murder, extortion, etc.), breaking of other laws, or breach of the constitution. Otherwise, as one who is sworn to maintain confidentiality (such as a CIA agent), one is duty bound to protect one’s oath. Plus, there are means within the agency itself to properly deal with agency transgressions. That’s what internal affairs departments and inspectors general are for.

  92. Holmes Says:

    Yeah, I don’t think the Libby example is an appropriate one here. He will be prosecuted for obstruction of justice during the investigation, but not for leaking a confidential CIA operative’s name.

    To get to the core of the argument, we should stick with a CIA person leaking information only a CIA person would have. The Libby example is too loaded.

    I wonder if the leaker’s decision to leak the leaked information based on conscience also includes a possible book deal or political motives beyond just “doing the right thing.”

  93. Stan Smith Says:

    Spanky:

    Libby has not been determined to be the “leak” in the Plame case. She also was not a “deep cover” agent, but a mid-level functionary widely known to be working for the CIA before the so-called “outing”. The intelligence that President Bush cited in the run-up to war was based on reports from ANY NUMBER of both US and foreign intelligence agencies, and has been supported by the British Butler report. There was no “lie” in the “sixteen words” SOTU speech, as Gerard has rightly pointed out, and for which you unjustly called him a “troll”. If you persist in this kind of willful ignorance of neo’s requests in her previous post, I’d ask her to ban you. Also, the President NEVER said “we must go to war with Iraq because it is developing nuclear weapons”…and you know it.

    Leaks “cripple our ability to effectively fight those who would destroy us” by limiting the effectiveness and/or ability of our intelligence agencies to conduct the business for which they have been instituted, either by blowing the secrecy necessary for the operations to be successful, or by alerting the enemy to operational details that otherwise would not be known. If you thought about this for a moment, instead of parroting talking points that have been discredited FOR YEARS, you’d be better off, and so would this discussion.

  94. Anonymous Says:

    Neo, The central question is this: Can a person who is entrusted with “classified” information ever betray that trust, under any circumstances? Being unable to predict “any circumstances,” the question is impossible to answer definitively. But it is certainly true that someone who believes that secret information should be revealed for the nation’s benefit should also be able to convince at least one other person privy to that secret to join them. Mark

  95. vanderleun Says:

    Sorry, Spanky, but you don’t seriously want to know about Libby. And we know that you know that.

    If you have been following the Libby/Plame story at all closely you’d know that you can’t leak classified information that is not classified.

    In general, the use of a disingenuous pose to make an argument is not a tactic that will lead to an interesting argument. Instead it is what is usually called a straw dog and straw dogs have been known to be especially attractive to flames.

    The way to have a fruitful online discussion is not to pose and prevaricate but to state your positions forthrightly and plainly.

    In the long run it not only garners more attention than dissembling, but that rarest of all online commodities, respect.

    But then again, I’ve only been doing this since 1988 and have only written one book on it, so carry on.

  96. Spanky the Enthusiastic Says:

    Well, I think I’ll ignore vander, per Neo’s instructions about trolls.

    Holmes, no. Neo is asserting that leaks cripple our security. I want to know why she thinks that.

    The only person who can make the decision to leak is the leaker who leaks the leaked leak. They have to decide based on their conscience. If they are, in fact, revealing crimes, they should be covered by whitleblower laws. If they’re simply trying to expose what they find unjust but legal, then that’s their thing too – but they also have to pay the penalty for doing that.

    Civil disobedience, the violation of unjust laws, is still breaking the law, and it looses some of its effectiveness if one goes unpunished. It’s not much of an unjust law (or policy, or whatever) if you can break it and nothing happens to you.

    But, honestly, I really want to know (from everyone except Vander): does Libby deserve to be punished for leaking? If it turns out Rove did too, does he get the boot? At what point up the ladder does it stop being leaking and become the White House using intelligence to try and discredit its detractors? Naming in public a deep cover operative risks the life of that operative, the contacts that operative has made in the target country, and the entire project around that operative. Isn’t that pretty serious business, too? Or is it only evil bad leaking if the leaker belongs to the other party?

  97. Holmes Says:

    Spanky,

    I think the point is that it’s not up to the leaker to decide if it is crippling or not- it’s not a decision they have been entrusted to make. And I certainly don’t think the standard for when not to leak information should be “this would cripple our ability…” I am not sure it should even be “this will slightly harm our ability” to carry out operations of national security interest. And regardless of the standard, who gave the leaker the ability to leak? That’s the question. And that’s a lot of leaking.

  98. vanderleun Says:

    Again we see, as a jerking knee, the “lie” lie. Just this morning I was writing about lies that go so deep into the human soul that they cannot possibly be killed off. This endlessly ranted “bush lied” lie is one such.

    So easy. Rolls so trippingly off the tongue. Feels so good to emit. Almost sexual in its eructative quality, And no so eternal.

    The oblique touch on the Plame nonsense at the end was a masterful touch as well.

    All part of the general attempt to transmogrify leakers and traitors into “whistleblowers.” Nothing wrong with blowing a whistle, is there? No matter who or how many are killed.

    There is no mistake in this war. The only mistake would be failing to fight it and, absent that, failing to win it.

    But I know now, beyond any skepticism, that many among us wouldn’t believe that even if a fully fueled airliner were to come flying into their living room.

    It is not even that they will not see it. It is that they actually cannot see it. Both eyes are lost and it is left to the one-eyed people to somehow guide us on.

    Should authority be questioned? Absolutely. Especially the authority of received ideologies that blind the believer.

  99. the Unknown Blogger Says:

    “But I’m curious…how are the leaks “crippling our ability to effectively fight those who would destroy us”?”

    My thoughts exactly Spanky. Keep up the good work.

  100. Spanky Says:

    “kneejerk questioning of authority and the reflexive suspicion of all institutions of government”

    Certainly, after Bush said “we must go to war with Iraq because it is developing nuclear weapons,” and it turns out that there were no nuclear weapons, requires that the administration’s announcements and justifications be taken with a little more skepticism than they would otherwise.

    If doesn’t matter if he was lying, in which case he’s due skepticism, or if he was wrong, in which case he’s due skepticism. If you lie a country into a way, people shouldn’t listen to you. If mistakenly lead a country into a war, people have all the right in the world to suspect your judgement.

    But I’m curious…how are the leaks “crippling our ability to effectively fight those who would destroy us”? Crippling? You think they’re crippling our ability?

    Also, I’m curious: do you consider the outing of deep cover CIA operatives to be crippling our ability to effectively fight those who would destroy us?

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>



About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
Read More >>








Blogroll

Ace (bold)
AmericanDigest (writer’s digest)
AmericanThinker (thought full)
Anchoress (first things first)
AnnAlthouse (more than law)
AtlasShrugs (fearless)
AugeanStables (historian’s task)
Baldilocks (outspoken)
Barcepundit (theBrainInSpain)
Beldar (Texas lawman)
BelmontClub (deep thoughts)
Betsy’sPage (teach)
Bookworm (writingReader)
Breitbart (big)
ChicagoBoyz (boyz will be)
Contentions (CommentaryBlog)
DanielInVenezuela (against tyranny)
DeanEsmay (conservative liberal)
Donklephant (political chimera)
Dr.Helen (rights of man)
Dr.Sanity (thinking shrink)
DreamsToLightening (Asher)
EdDriscoll (market liberal)
Fausta’sBlog (opinionated)
GayPatriot (self-explanatory)
HadEnoughTherapy? (yep)
HotAir (a roomful)
InFromTheCold (once a spook)
InstaPundit (the hub)
JawaReport (the doctor is Rusty)
LegalInsurrection (law prof)
RedState (conservative)
Maggie’sFarm (centrist commune)
MelaniePhillips (formidable)
MerylYourish (centrist)
MichaelTotten (globetrotter)
MichaelYon (War Zones)
Michelle Malkin (clarion pen)
Michelle Obama's Mirror (reflections)
MudvilleGazette (milblog central)
NoPasaran! (behind French facade)
NormanGeras (principled leftist)
OneCosmos (Gagdad Bob’s blog)
PJMedia (comprehensive)
PointOfNoReturn (Jewish refugees)
Powerline (foursight)
ProteinWisdom (wiseguy)
QandO (neolibertarian)
RachelLucas (in Italy)
RogerL.Simon (PJ guy)
SecondDraft (be the judge)
SeekerBlog (inquiring minds)
SisterToldjah (she said)
Sisu (commentary plus cats)
Spengler (Goldman)
TheDoctorIsIn (indeed)
Tigerhawk (eclectic talk)
VictorDavisHanson (prof)
Vodkapundit (drinker-thinker)
Volokh (lawblog)
Zombie (alive)

Regent Badge