Alexander Vindman Proves That Working Within System Works Even While Derek Harvey Works To Destroy It

Jim here.

Last night, two very remarkable stories were published that, taken together, illustrate an extreme chasm in our defense community that receives far too little attention. To set the stage, it is necessary to go back to the early 2000’s for a development that has mostly been erased from our collective memory but has had an indelible and particularly harmful and lingering effect. As the George W. Bush Administration executed its pivot from the war in Afghanistan to the invasion of Iraq, it became necessary for the Bush folks to craft a set of intelligence “facts” supporting and then sustaining the action in Iraq. A primary tool used in this effort was create a separate intelligence apparatus, since the existing intelligence agencies did not produce analyses supporting the invasion.

A huge impact of this illegal war was that it devastated morale within the military at all ranks. Sadly, many of our highest ranking–and most ethical–officers chose retirement rather than to serve while an illegal war was being waged. With the Defense Secretary, Vice President and President clearly leading the charge for the war, it seems obvious that these officers realized that their analyses showing that the invasion was not justified were falling on deaf ears and that they would never be able to inject a dose of reality into the artificial reality on which the whole war effort rested. The result, as they had to be able to foresee, was that the Iraqi people and our enlisted forces suffered unnecessary and devastating losses, with impact continuing into the present even after “end” of US action in Iraq.

By 2006, some of these retired officers even began to speak out, calling for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld. In a normal world, where the system of checks and balances within the military and with legislative and executive oversight functions operating properly, these officers would not have needed to retire, but instead would have been key factors in rejecting the invasion as unnecessary and based only on a set of political objectives rather than an actual need for military action to stave off harm to the region. As a trained geneticist, my feeling was that this event served as a sort of genetic selection within the military, where the population of those remaining and advancing through the ranks was enriched for those who bought into distorted politics of the invasion and a willingness to shape “facts” around a desired outcome. Our only hope, I felt, was that at least some would desire to stay within the system anyway and continue to work for the ideals of their oath to the Constitution administered when they joined the military.

So, fast forward to last night. The New York Times article on Alexander Vindman illustrates that Vindman is indeed just that sort of person I hoped would continue to stay and work within the system. His work as the senior Ukraine analyst on the National Security Council put him into position to see the illegal plan that the Trump Administration was carrying out force Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden in return for the release of essential Ukraine aid that Trump had frozen. Vindman’s response was by the book: document the crime and then report it up the chain of command:

“I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine,” Colonel Vindman said in his statement. “I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained.”


“This would all undermine U.S. national security,” Colonel Vindman added, referring to Mr. Trump’s comments in the call.


Vindman then went on to report his concerns:

“I did convey certain concerns internally to national security officials in accordance with my decades of experience and training, sense of duty, and obligation to operate within the chain of command,” he plans to say.

He will testify that he watched with alarm as “outside influencers” began pushing a “false narrative” about Ukraine that was counter to the consensus view of American national security officials, and harmful to United States interests. According to documents reviewed by The Times on the eve of his congressional testimony, Colonel Vindman was concerned as he discovered that Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, was leading an effort to prod Kiev to investigate Mr. Biden’s son, and to discredit efforts to investigate Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his business dealings in Ukraine.

Vindman made not one, but two reports to the top lawyer in the NSC, John Eisenberg. Were it not for the whistleblower report and the impeachment inquiry stemming from it, the sad reality is that Vindman’s heroic actions might have ended with his reports to Eisenberg, as Eisenberg has been shown to have been working to quash the efforts to expose Trump’s illegal actions. But now that the House of Representatives has finally rediscovered the real duty of oversight (we already miss you, Elijah Cummings!), Vindman today has the opportunity provide a deposition to the three committees carrying out the impeachment investigation.  Vindman’s testimony seems likely to seal Trump’s fate, as it is nearly impossible to see how at least one article of impeachment won’t arise from the facts Vindman lays out. Whether Senate Republicans will also find their duty to truth rather than manufactured reality, of course, seems less likely, but at the very least it will be valuable to watch them squirm when the decision is laid squarely in their laps.

At almost the same time the Vindman article came out in the Times, Daily Beast detailed how a retired military officer, Derek Harvey, is working outside proper channels to disclose the identity of the whistleblower, endangering this individual and making future whistleblowers less likely to expose corruption. Harvey seems to be a poster child for exactly the type of officer who flourished after the mass exodus of those with a conscience. Here is how Daily Beast described his background:

Derek Harvey’s career has been extraordinary. As a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, he played an important role in the 2007-8 troop surge in Iraq. David Petraeus kept Harvey aboard for an intelligence billet at U.S. Central Command. Harvey aligned with another member of the counterinsurgency coterie, DIA Director Mike Flynn, and followed Flynn onto Trump’s White NSC. From there, Harvey became a crucial aide to Nunes, a pivotal Flynn and Trump ally. There is no reasonable definition of Deep State that excludes Derek Harvey from elite membership.

So Harvey accelerated his military career, and career after retiring but staying within military intelligence, by joining forces with the Petraeus effort to craft “facts” around the Iraq surge–a cataclysmic failure that Petraeus always claimed as a stunning success–and then eventually joined Mike Flynn both in DIA and the NSC. One stop in Harvey’s career not on that list is detailed in Bob Woodward’s “Obama’s Wars” [quoted here]:

Based on what Harvey reported to General Petraeus, according to Woodward’s book, Petraeus “decided to create his own intelligence agency inside CentCom” (pg. 78, “Obama’s War”) to offset the shortcomings of the DNI, CIA, NSA, DIA and other US intelligence gathering agencies in gathering information about the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. He asked Harvey to draft plans for an agency modeled on Harvey’s approach. Reports Woodward, “Soon, Harvey was appointed director of the new Afghanistan-Pakistan Center of Excellence based at CentCom headquarters in Tampa, Florida.”

According to Woodward, Petraeus moved over $100 million into this project with Congress unaware of that move for several months. Harvey’s analysis that he gave to Petraeus: “the war could be won, but the U.S. government would have to make monumental long-term commitments for years that might be unpalatable with voters” (p. 79).

So Harvey clearly is essentially a ratfucker for hire, being willing to craft an intelligence set of “facts” to serve whatever master is paying him to do so. Although Woodward paints a rather admiring picture of Harvey’s diligence in approaching his intelligence gathering, comparing it to that of a homicide detective, historical context tells us that Petraeus simply didn’t like what he was getting from the existing agencies and needed his own “intelligence” to continue on his chosen path.

But, as you see above, Harvey is now working for Devin Nunes (R-Cow) and that is an especially devious team. From Daily Beast:

Derek Harvey, who works for Nunes, the ranking Republican on the House intelligence committee, has provided notes for House Republicans identifying the whistleblower’s name ahead of the high-profile depositions of Trump administration appointees and civil servants in the impeachment inquiry. The purpose of the notes, one source said, is to get the whistleblower’s name into the record of the proceedings, which committee chairman Adam Schiff has pledged to eventually release. In other words: it’s an attempt to out the anonymous official who helped trigger the impeachment inquiry.

Mark Zaid explained to Daily Beast the horrible implications of what Harvey is doing:

“Exposing the identity of the whistleblower and attacking our client would do nothing to undercut the validity of the complaint’s allegations,” said Mark Zaid, one of the whistleblower’s attorneys. “What it would do, however, is put that individual and their family at risk of harm. Perhaps more important, it would deter future whistleblowers from coming forward in subsequent administrations, Democratic or Republican.”

It’s hard to imagine two more polar opposites than Alexander Vindman and Derek Harvey. Vindman is a patriot committed to the security of the US and working within the system while Harvey is willing to sell out US security to whatever wingnut is willing to pay him and to bypass every safeguard built into the system.

44 replies
  1. Jim White says:

    Note that for the title of this post to be correct, all components of the “system” have to be working. For many years, the Congressional oversight part has been completely missing.

  2. William Bennett says:

    To set the stage, it is necessary to go back to the early 2000’s for a development that has mostly been erased from our collective memory but has had an indelible and particularly harmful and lingering effect. As the George W. Bush Administration executed its pivot from the war in Afghanistan to the invasion of Iraq, it became necessary for the Bush folks to craft a set of intelligence “facts” supporting and then sustaining the action in Iraq.

    Just a footnote to remember that this kind of thing isn’t just a Republican tradition, but a Bush family one.

    • NorskieFlamethrower says:

      The Bush crime family is all tangled up in this rolling coup that started in 1973-74 when GHW moved from Chair of the RNC to Ford’s CIA director. Beginning at that time we pick up Rumsfeld (who pushed the end of the draft and the “professionalization” of the military), Cheney and Wm. Barr who served in the CIA beginning in 1973 when Bush the First took over that agency. Of course we all know how Barr saved GHW’s scrawny ass in the Iran Contra debacle by torpedoing Lawrence Walsh’s investigation of same and saving old man Bush from the witness stand. All of the aforementioned of course show up in both Bush war games in some official capacity or other and now of course Barr is trying to implement the Bush/Federalist society’s theory of the Unitary Executive. The old Bush empire is at stake and so Barr is sent to save that nasty group’s bacon.

      • William Bennett says:

        You want some deep state, we gotcher deep state right here. As the saying goes, with Republicans it’s all projection.

  3. Peterr says:

    Great post, Jim!

    Let me repost two items from the comments of an earlier thread on Mike Flynn – he for whom “Flynn facts” were named . . .

    In an October 2016 story in POLITICO about Flynn being forcibly retired from the DIA, there’s this little nugget buried well toward the bottom:

    In private emails hacked and leaked to the press, Colin Powell, former secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs, called Trump a “national disgrace and an international pariah” and Flynn “right-wing nutty” for empowering him. “Flynn got fired as head of DIA. … I asked why Flynn got fired. Abusive with staff, didn’t listen, worked against policy, bad management, etc. He has been and was right-wing nutty every [sic] since,” Powell wrote, later wondering “how [Flynn] got that far in the Army?”

    A month later, the New Yorker did a profile on Flynn a week after Trump announced his appointment as National Security Advisor that included this:

    Flynn broke rules he thought were stupid. He once told me about a period he spent assigned to a C.I.A. station in Iraq, when he would sometimes sneak out of the compound without the “insane” required approval from C.I.A. headquarters, in Langley, Virginia. He had technicians secretly install an Internet connection in his Pentagon office, even though it was forbidden. There was also the time he gave classified information to NATO allies without approval, an incident which prompted an investigation, and a warning from superiors. . . .

    In 2012, Flynn became director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, in charge of all military attachés and defense-intelligence collection around the world. He ran into serious trouble almost immediately. I’ve spoken with some two dozen former colleagues who were close to Flynn then, members of the D.I.A. and the military, and some who worked with him in civilian roles. They all like Flynn personally. But they described how he lurched from one priority to another and had trouble building a loyal team. “He made a lot of changes,” one close observer of Flynn’s time at the D.I.A. told me. “Not in a strategic way—A to Z—but back and forth.”

    Flynn also began to seek the Washington spotlight. But, without loyal junior officers at his side to vet his facts, he found even more trouble. His subordinates started a list of what they called “Flynn facts,” things he would say that weren’t true, like when he asserted that three-quarters of all new cell phones were bought by Africans or, later, that Iran had killed more Americans than Al Qaeda. In private, his staff tried to dissuade him from repeating these lines.

    Flynn’s temper also flared. He berated people in front of colleagues. Soon, according to former associates, a parallel power structure developed within the D.I.A. to fence him in, and to keep the nearly seventeen-thousand-person agency working. “He created massive antibodies in the building,” the former colleague said.

    Your observation that “Harvey clearly is essentially a ratfucker for hire, being willing to craft an intelligence set of “facts” to serve whatever master is paying him to do so” clearly fits with Flynn’s approach to reality.

    • Jim White says:

      Thanks, Peterr.

      I just hope that Vindman’s example will inspire a new round of recruits into the military who wish to do more than just kill brown Muslims while also helping some of those who are already there see that there is an alternative to the wingnuttery.

      I could easily see you writing virtually the same post comparing Yovanovitch to Sondland in the same way, showing that there might also be hope for the diplomatic community regaining its proper identity.

      • Peterr says:

        Great minds!

        Yes, I have observed the same dynamics at State, with some principled FSOs resigning rather than acting to support policies they find odious, and others continuing to work and now speaking up before these congressional committees out of the same sense of principle.

  4. GKJames says:

    Thanks for this. First, it captures the essence of the two identities that have marked Americans since the beginning. Second, it highlights how the government ecosystem has become so vast that meaningful oversight by Congress, difficult in the best of times, becomes impossible when perverted by the unscrupulous. And doubts about the existence of a military-industrial complex are extinguished by the corporate-speak reference to “center of excellence”.

  5. BobCon says:

    The other dark side/mirror image of Lt. Colonel Vindman is, of course, Lt. Colonel Oliver North.

    It’s a bit spooky, but not surprising, that both Iran Contra and Ukraine involved US dirtbags messing with arms shipments to advance gross ideological ends to the benefit of vicious authoritarians out to hurt this country. I’m glad a Lt. Colonel stepped up to be on the right side this time.

        • Jim White says:

          Great question. I just checked, and yes he was still on active duty when his first indictments came down and during that trial. He submitted his request to retire a couple years later when the final indictment came.

        • Peterr says:


          North retired 9 months after his testimony, after he was indicted for his actions in Iran-Contra.

        • alfredlordbleep says:

          North was favored by the American Way (and its Justice System) (and less protected by his Bible-toting piety—at his right hand during trial)

          . . . However, on July 20, 1990, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU),[37] North’s convictions were vacated, after the appeals court found that witnesses in his trial might have been impermissibly affected by his immunized congressional testimony.[38]

          The individual members of the prosecution team had isolated themselves from news reports and discussion of North’s testimony, and while the defense could show no specific instance in which North’s congressional testimony was used in his trial, the Court of Appeals ruled that the trial judge had made an insufficient examination of the issue. Consequently, North’s convictions were reversed. After further hearings on the immunity issue, Judge Gesell dismissed all charges against North on September 16, 1991.[39] wiki

  6. Bay State Librul says:


    Can I tell you how much I appreciate your work.
    We have come within a whisker of a cover-up that might never have come out.
    I can’t imagine what Trump will do next.
    It’s fucking scary.

    • Jim White says:

      Thanks. With today’s deposition and Thursday’s vote finally formalizing the process and rules, it really does feel we may be at a tipping point. As you suggest, we have no idea at the present time how things will go and many of the scenarios are ugly and even violent. They may yet get away with it, but this truly does feel like a last chance to get back on the right track.

      • dwfreeman says:

        What today’s testimony brings home is the need to secure a complete transcript and record of this call. Obviously, the call itself is simply documentation of Trump’s month-long effort to combine the efforts of Giuliani and Barr to carry out a rogue policy aimed primarily at altering political history, squeezing Ukraine for the larger purpose of assuaging Moscow’s interests.

        There was no single purpose attached to Trump’s extortion attempt other than relieving his anxiety about facing Biden in a re-election battle. To me, Trump is not driven so much by his re-election as the overriding need to repay Putin for past favors. That is the overarching influence here. He is trying to settle debts while benefiting from the investment at the same time.

    • Molly Pitcher says:

      My anxiety is for all the crap they have done that we haven’t found yet. What makes you think that this is it ??

    • BobCon says:

      Schumer has hinted another government shutdown might happen. I can see that happening.

      It’s a terrible idea for Trump beecause he needs a roaring economy if he has any hopes for survival, but he may not have good ideas left.

      I think he is approaching the point where he wants constant loyalty tests to flush out anyone who might stab him in the back, and it is hard to see what better loyalty test there is besides seeing who backs him on a shutdown. We’re getting to the point of seeing who salutes the horse he has appointed as consul.

    • milestogo says:

      It appears Sondland may be in some trouble. From what I can gather Sondland, John Eisenberg, Giuliani, and of course Trump are the main players in this conspiracy. Pence, Perry and Barr are also players though I am still unwrapping their culpability and I’m sure folks here know better than I.

      Eisenberg hasn’t gotten the attention of the others but I think his time in the barrel is coming. He’s a Kirkland and Ellis alum and in addition to being one of the longest survivors of the original 2016 NSC legal team, was involved in the 2016 Nunes nonsense ( Eisenberg approved the transfer of Trump’s Ukraine conversation to the secret server and was warned by at least Vindman, Kupperman, and I believe Bolton about what was happening and seemed to only take that information as a necessity to cover up the crime. I think it’s worth watching Eisenberg very closely. Interesting that Bolton of all people may end up being one of the good guys at least with respect to the rule of law.

      …oh, and Eisenberg was hired by our friend Michael Flynn

    • harpie says:

      Looks like Perry may be in trouble, too:
      2:09 PM – 29 Oct 2019

      NEW: Vindman’s testimony appears to contradict Rick Perry’s ardent denials that he ever heard the Bidens discussed as part of pressure on Ukraine…Perry was in the meeting when Vindman raised concerns about targeting the Bidens, we’re told. W/@bjlefebvre: [Politico link]

      Though Perry’s denials were to the media, not under oath.

      • P J Evans says:

        I’m waiting for Perry to claim he was clueless on that. He’s really not all that bright when it comes to things he should know.

        • I Never Lie and am Always Right says:

          The most accurate single-sentence description I have ever seen of Rick Perry: If you could buy him for what he is worth and sell him for what he thinks he is worth, you could retire a multi-millionaire.

  7. Peterr says:

    Re Harvey working to get the whistleblower’s name into the record . . .

    Just a WAG, but I can’t imagine the whistleblower didn’t forsee that this would ultimately happen. You don’t get a senior govt position in DC without knowing how the ratfkers do their work. Had the whistleblower gone to the media instead of the IG, he/she might have had a better chance of remaining anonymous — see Deep Throat, aka Associate Director of the FBI Mark Felt. Although that, too, might have been wishful thinking. Given what was revealed in the complaint, the universe of suspects was quite small, and it can’t have been too hard for GOP insiders to whittle it down to one.

    That said, Harvey is still an ass for trying to out him/her.

  8. Jenny says:

    Excellent post Jim. Thank you.
    LTC Vindman went to his superiors, not once but TWICE about the way Trump and administration officials were handling Ukraine. He took his concerns to John Eisenberg, NSC lawyer, on July 10 and July 25.

    Do you think Eisenberg sleeps soundly at night?

  9. Yohei72 says:

    I vividly remember, in the pre-Iraq War days, picking up some quickie conservative paperback off a bookstore or library shelf, and scanning the back cover. Its thesis was that the CIA and its sibling organizations had been gradually taken over by radical leftists, and that was why they were sabotaging the president’s plan to save us from Saddam.

    Your first couple paragraphs are a useful corrective to what seems to have become one of the standard conservative talking point on GWB’s Iraq adventure: “he got bad information from the intelligence agencies, who told him Iraq had WMDs.”

  10. Theresa N says:

    WHO is going to prosecute all these people & Barr? It’s a cabal of coconspirators. And it’s highly likely that Benczkowski is ALSO a coconspirator! How do you get around this when the AG is corrupt & likely the head of the Criminal Division? No, it’s not a John Mitchell situation.

    • Re entry says:

      It’s encouraging to hear these testimonies pile up given the rations and spins to this point.

      With the warnings the bandits had preceding this phone call, it’s amazing that it ever happened. Timing and logistics aside, was there no sneakier way of leaning on the Ukraine?

      And what color is their kool aid?

  11. Molly Pitcher says:

    I heard on NPR that Vindeman has an identical twin brother, Yevgeny S. Vindman, who is an Army lieutenant colonel and JAG Officer who is assigned as an attorney on the National Security Council handling ethics issues.

    • P J Evans says:

      I read that yesterday or the day before. They’re serious about serving the country – unlike some of those attacking them.

    • Theresa N says:

      Barr relatives per CNN 2-14-19
      “Tyler McGaughey, the husband of Barr’s youngest daughter, has been detailed from the powerful US attorney’s office in Alexandria, Virginia, to the White House counsel’s office, two officials said. Mary Daly, Barr’s oldest daughter and the director of Opioid Enforcement and Prevention Efforts in the deputy attorney general’s office, is leaving for a position at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).” I haven’t seen any current info to determine whether they are still in those positions.

  12. Stacey says:

    Jim, I always love analogies that bring systemic understandings from other disciplines–like genetics–to bare on social/economic/political systems. Thanks for that!

    I have a general ‘as above–so below’ frame work that I put around most anything I’m trying to better understand and one that’s been particularly revealing to me for years now in America, is auto-immune disorders. So on the one hand it’s fascinating to me that an evening of any CBS drama watching will reveal a bazillion drug ads for different diseases from skin conditions and arthritis to mood disorders, and the thing you can tell from the list of side-effects of each is that these conditions are being considered auto-immune disorders. I’m not saying that’s inappropriate, I’m noticing that everything seems to be moving in the direction of considering disorders some type of ‘defensive move against the self’.

    Our environmental assaults against the health of our own bodies is no difficult case to make for why this would be, and I think the same can so easily be said of our body politic’s health and the eco-environmental assaults that have been made against it for decades now. Meaning, the political environment in which money has corrupted our entire system, and all that that brings. We are so clearly now experiencing everything politically as an auto-immune disorder against the country as well. We have installed a head of state that is trying to kill off what we are as a country and when the body fights back against something that has already made it inside the body system which is trying to harm it, the immune system has a hard time figuring out which are the good guys and which are the bad guys. That’s why all of those ads mention some form of ‘your immune system must be suppressed by this drug in order for the problem to be addressed, therefore you’ll be without much of an immune system going forward.’

    And I think, as you and other folks sort of implied in comments, good people retiring is a bad idea. That ‘suppression of our true immune system’ turns out to be really bad when we need it! We need to redesign these immune systems going forward with sort of more antibiotics than the one we think is all we have to throw at it, because in the case where the head of state has captured an entire party and many heads of self-defensive agencies, like DOJ, etc., those responses will not work the way we thought they would. We need to be able to have gram-positive and gram-negative antibiotics we can use because we never know which type of bacteria we may be dealing with.

  13. Yohei72 says:

    Two days ago very few people outside his narrow area of work had ever heard of Vindman. Apparently, by today, it had become an article of faith in a substantial portion of the wingnut Twitterverse that Vindman is a double agent working for Ukraine who tried to frame Trump and might be or should be faced with living out the rest of his days in Gitmo.

    I’m still not used to the speed, in our current era, with which the most bizarre and elaborate fantasies can spread and latch onto people’s brains. It’s terrifying. How do subtle and complicated truths have any chance?

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