Thursday, October 20, 2005

Memo for Joe Wilson: Cover Your Anatomy

CYA. It's one of the first things anyone in government service--military or civilian, government employee or contractor--learns: Cover Your Anatomy. (To my salty Marine Corps brethren and sistren: I am using the sanitized version deliberately, so take a chill pill.)

That means that, whenever there is the slightest chance of controversy regarding what happened, you make records of everything you do on behalf of Uncle. You write things down, preferably on real paper. That goes for anyone, be s/he be a Marine NCO recording that s/he had counseled a subordinate on his or her problematic behavior, or a former ambassador sent to Niger to investigate whether or not uranium was making its way to Saddam Hussein.

Mark Levin raises the question peripherally here:

When Wilson returned from Niger, he never got around to filing a written report. After all, why produce a written report that would be circulated to real professionals and policymakers, who would subject it to serious scrutiny.

So far, so bad. When I participated in meetings with government clients, I always wrote down my thoughts immediately afterward, while the memories were still fresh. (If you didn't write it down, it never happened.) But it gets worse in the next sentence:

However, Wilson was debriefed by the CIA and his debriefers did take notes.

The second sentence raises an interesting point. Mr. Wilson never gave the government his primary recollections; instead, they received his observations filtered through the prism of whoever debriefed him and whatever they chose to write down. That's very bad form when dealing with something that could help decide, one way or another, whether America goes to war. It is a sign of either laziness or moral cowardice. Neither is the sort of trait that engenders trust in one's judgement.

Even more interesting is the Report of the Select Committee on Intelligence on the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq. There is an interesting statement on page 43 of Section II, Niger:

(U) Later that day, two CIA DO officers debriefed the former ambassador who had returned from Niger the previous day. The debriefing took place in the former ambassador's home and although his wife was there, according to the reports officer, she acted as a hostess and did not participate in the debrief.

I never discuss classified information in my house; it is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a secure facility, and it cannot be made into one without truly astonishing amounts of remodeling, followed by having the National Security Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency come out to look over the work and certify it, a process that generates truly astonishing amounts of paperwork. As Mr. Wilson does not reside in the White House or the Naval Observatory, it is safe to assume that his house is, like mine, not a secure facility. Therefore, any information from his debriefing should have been unclassified. However, the report prepared by the debriefers is classified. Either the debriefers grossly violated basic procedures for handling classified material, or they grossly abused the security classification process. Which one is it? That's a question for an attorney who specializes in Freedom of Information Act litigation.

So, what happened? We don't know the full details. We probably never will know the full details. But what we do know is that Joe Wilson, supposedly an expert in national security matters, didn't even bother writing anything down at the time regarding what he heard and saw, and violated either security classification guidelines or procedures for protecting classified information...and he then asks us to trust his judgement.

Sorry, Joe, I didn't get that memo.

1 comment:

Harold C. Hutchison said...

There is no way this could be on the up-and-up. None. The folks who set up Wilson's trip have something to hide.