Posts

On the Nonsense of Norms about Secrets

At a panel on secrecy yesterday, Bob Litt proclaimed that the NYT “disgraced itself” for publishing names, some of which were widely known, of the people who were conducting our equally widely known secret war on drones.

Sadly, Litt did not get asked the question implied by the Washington Post’s Greg Miller (who has, in the past, caught heat for not publishing some of the same names).

So CIA tried to convince not to name CTC chief, but helped do profile of CTC women with names and photos??

Did the NYT “disgrace itself” for publishing a column by Maureen Dowd that covers over some of the more unsavory female CIA officers — notably, Alfreda Bikowsky — who have nevertheless been celebrated by the Agency?

I’d submit that, yes, the latter was a far more disgraceful act, regardless of the credit some of the more sane female CIA officers deserve, because it was propaganda delivered on demand, and delivered for an agency that would squawk Espionage Act had the NYT published the same details in other circumstances.

Keep that in mind as you read this post from Jack Goldsmith, claiming — without offering real evidence — that this reflects a new “erosion of norms” against publishing classified information.

I mean, sure, I agree the NYT decision was notable. But it’s only notable because comes after a long series of equally notable events — events upping the tension underlying the secrecy system — that Goldsmith doesn’t mention.

There’s the norm — broken by some of the same people the NYT names, as well as Jose Rodriguez before them — that when you take on the most senior roles at CIA, you drop your cover. By all appearances, as CIA has engaged in more controversial and troubled programs, it has increasingly protected the architects of those programs by claiming they’re still undercover, when that cover extends only to the public, and not to other countries, even adversarial ones. That is, CIA has broken the old norm to avoid any accountability for its failures and crimes.

Then there’s the broken norm — exhibited most spectacularly in the Torture Report — of classifying previously unclassified details, such as the names of all the lawyers who were involved in the torture program.

There’s the increasing amounts of official leaking — up to and including CIA cooperating with Zero Dark Thirty to celebrate the work of Michael D’Andrea — all while still pretending that D’Andrea was still under cover.

Can we at least agree that if CIA has decided a Hollywood propagandistic version of D’Andrea’s is not classified, then newspapers can treat his actual career as such? Can we at least agree that as soon as CIA has invited Hollywood into Langley to lionize people, the purportedly classified identities of those people — and the actual facts of their career — will no longer be granted deference?

And then, finally, there’s CIA’s (and the Intelligence Community generally) serial lying. When Bob Litt’s boss makes egregious lies to Congress to cover up for the even more egregious lies Keith Alexander offered up when he played dress-up hacker at DefCon, and when Bob Litt continues to insist that James Clapper was not lying when everyone knows he was lying, then Litt’s judgement about who “disgraced” themselves or not loses sway.

All the so-called norms Goldsmith nostalgically presents without examination rest on a kind of legitimacy that must be earned. The Executive has squandered that legitimacy, and with it any trust for its claims about the necessity of the secrets it keeps.

Goldsmith and Litt are asking people to participate with them in a kind of propagandistic dance, sustaining assertions as “true” when they aren’t. That’s the habit of a corrupt regime. They’d do well to reflect on what kind of sickness they’re actually asking people to embrace before they start accusing others of disgraceful behavior.

If by “Fact Check” You Mean “Spy on MoDo”

A funny thing happened when Judicial Watch tried to catch the White House buttering up Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal for the Zero Dark Thirty film. It caught CIA doing so.

More embarrassing still, it caught the CIA asking NYT’s spook reporter, Mark Mazzetti, to find out how much Maureen Dowd (pictured here posing as a blogger covering the Prop 8 trial) would expose the CIA’s own involvement in the movie.

It seems some DOD sources had leaked information to MoDo that exposed the CIA.

It was clear that the White House had outsourced the job of manning up the president’s image to Hollywood when Boal got welcomed to the upper echelons of the White House and the Pentagon and showed up recently — to the surprise of some military officers — at a C.I.A. ceremony celebrating the hero Seals.

“This didn’t come from me…and please delete after you read,” Mazzetti wrote when he forwarded MoDo’s entire column to Marie Harf. “See, nothing to worry about”

Except Harf apparently is less skilled at destroying evidence than Jose Rodriguez, cause there the email is, exposing the collaboration between reporter and reportee.

Things got more interesting when NYT Managing Editor Dean Baquet got involved, after Politico’s Dylan Byers asked for comment. Baquet stuck up for Mazzetti.

“The optics aren’t what they look like,” he went on. “I’ve talked to Mark, I know the cirucmstance, and given what I know, it’s much ado about nothing.”

At which point, I suspect, MoDo went apeshit, given the suggestion Baquet left that she routinely shares her work before publication with her colleagues, allowing them to warn others about what she writes. Cause then NYT’s own flack, Eileen Murphy, wrote Byers to assure him this is not, in fact, “much ado about nothing.”

“Last August, Maureen Dowd asked Mark Mazzetti to help check a fact for her column. In the course of doing so, he sent the entire column to a CIA spokeswoman shortly before her deadline. He did this without the knowledge of Ms. Dowd. This action was a mistake that is not consistent with New York Times standards.”

Consider: this is the best face the Gray Lady can put on this rather cozy relationship with the nation’s spy agency, claiming that Mazzetti’s spying on MoDo for the CIA was a “mistake.”

But what I want to know is this: is this how the NYT conducts fact checks? Or just fact checks of its MoDos and other columnists? “Here, beat writer. I’m writing a column suggesting Obama has a very small penis. Can you ‘fact check’ it and make sure I’ve got the details correct?” And how often do these “fact checks” get sent off as a beat sweetener in the information economy of the beltway?

Cowboys, T. Jeff’s Declaration, Bond Bitchez and Teh Porn Stash

Hi there buckaroos and buckarettes. Sometimes a man has gots to do what a man has gots to do. Now is one of those times. Marcy up and penned this most awesome cutting, biting, truth to power wonderful post. And then she went and buggered the pooch with a sandpapered, plain vanilla, non confrontational milquetoast title.

Bleeeccchhh.

Responsible blog wingman and all that I am, I immediately pointed out the title should be “The Declaration of Independence, Obama’s Presidential Kill Cards and the Porn Stash”. Same old story; same old song and dance. Nobody ever listens to good old bmaz. Instead we went with the Wolf Blitzer/Jonas Brothers/Disney Lite title of “Keep Your Declaration of Independence Right Next to Your Assassination Cards”.

Yawn.

Come on, you just know that Michael Leiter, the designated human kill switch of the Obama Administration, keeps those two critical reference materials – the Declaration of Independence and the US Government’s deck of snuff cards – in the safest, most discreet and yet accessible, location to his bedroom. You know, right where he keeps his porn stash.

Now what is really odd about this report, and does not register at first blush, is that Leiter has mentally honed in and lasered his focus on the Declaration of Independence rather than the Constitution. Seriously; think about it. It is an incredibly telling difference.

Here is the opening text of the aggressive and intentionally somewhat in your face Declaration of Independence, the forward cry and belligerent marking of territory by a new nation staking its claim in the world:

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

Then ponder the respectful, moral and enlightened reach of the Preamble to the Constitution, the hallowed document that Leiter and Obama ought to be paying attention to when deciding to remotely snuff human lives (including, by all reports, those of American citizens) without the protection of due process and by the cold mechanical death by drone:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The Declaration is an affirmative statement of manifest authority; the Constitution is a self imposed restriction of manifest authority and protection of due process in the face of it. So, there are a lot of issues with this whole gig surrounding Leiter and his nighttime is the right time to kill thing. And people were worried about Hillary getting a 3 am call; seems all so quaint now.

Oh, and by the way, T. Jeff it has now been concluded made a mistake in drafting the Declaration of Independence, and had it even more authoritarian than anybody ever knew:

Preservation scientists at the Library of Congress have discovered that Thomas Jefferson, even in the act of declaring independence from England, had trouble breaking free from monarchial rule.

In an early draft of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote the word “subjects,” when he referred to the American public. He then erased that word and replaced it with “citizens,” a term he used frequently throughout the final draft.

The Library released news of the struck word for the first time on Friday.

Jeebus, even dead presidents and founders are going rogue.

The other quite random thought I cannot pry from my beady little mind is the slathering coverage of the super hot, most awesomest, Redhead Rooskie Spy Babe, Anna Chapman. At first I could not figure out the singular fascination of the press with this chick who is being billed as the new “Bond Babe”.

Then it dawned on me. Chapman is hot, red, sultry and enticing. And she looks eerily like a young and come hither Maureen Dowd. Come on, you just know Howie Kurtz and his penis er the media is thinking that.

Well, that is yer friendly Friday Night Emptywheel Trash Talk. New and improved with no sports! Eh, it will be Favre season soon enough, so do not despair. Tonight’s musical interlude is a little slice of the old west I know and love. Actually, I like both kinds of music, country and western. The incomparable Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy with The Cowboy Song. Oh, and the Boys Are Back.

Happy trails pardners!