By David Swanson
Can there be any doubt that if the White House finds out who leaked the story of its illegal spying, fierce retribution will follow?
Another way of asking that question is: Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?
Remember what happened to Ambassador Joseph Wilson? The White House leaked to the media his wife’s identity as an undercover agent for the CIA, putting her life and those of her colleagues in danger and ending her career.
And let us recall what became of General Eric Shinseki, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, who dared to accurately predict how many troops would be needed to occupy Iraq. Defense Department officials leaked the name of his replacement 14 months before his retirement, rendering him a lame duck commander and embarrassing and neutralizing the Army’s top officer.
We should also bring back to mind the fate of Major General John Riggs. He told the Baltimore Sun that the Army needed at least another 10,000 soldiers because it was being stretched too thin between Iraq and Afghanistan. General George W. Casey told Riggs to “stay in your lane” and not discuss the troops. Riggs
retired and was denied his full rank, officially for “minor infractions.”
Does anyone remember Army Spc. Thomas Wilson, a 31-year-old member of a Tennessee National Guard unit? After asking Donald Rumsfeld why vehicle armor was still scarce nearly two years after the start of the war, Wilson was trashed as an insubordinate plant of the “liberal media.”
We can’t forget former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill. He was punished twice by the Bush Administration, once for opposing Bush’s tax policy, for which he was forced to resign in January 2003, and later for providing a first hand account of the Administration’s decision-making process in the lead up to the Iraq war. The Administration sought to discredit him by launching an investigation into his use of classified documents and whether he shared them with 60 Minutes in his interviews. The investigation did not uncover any improprieties. The White House also sought to discredit O’Neill through numerous anonymous comments in the press.
Let’s remember former senior White House economic adviser Larry Lindsey. Mr. Lindsey angered the White House in September 2002 when he made a prescient prediction that a war with Iraq would cost between $100 billion and $200 billion, an estimate Administration officials at the time insisted was too high. In December 2002, the White House requested that Lindsey resign from his post.
And we should keep in mind the smear campaign against Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism czar who published a book recounting how the Bush Administration had been fixated on invading Iraq. Dan Bartlett, White House communications director, dismissed Clarke’s accounts as “politically motivated,” “reckless,” and “baseless.” Scott McClellan, President Bush’s spokesman, portrayed Clarke as a disgruntled former employee: “Mr. Clarke has been out there talking about what title he had . . . He wanted to be the deputy secretary of the Homeland Security Department after it was created. The fact of the matter is, just a few months after that, he left the administration. He did not get that position. Someone else was appointed.” National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice alleged that: “Dick Clarke just does not know what he is talking about. He wasn’t involved in most of the meetings of the Administration.” Vice President Cheney stated that Clarke “wasn’t in the loop, frankly, on a lot of this stuff . . . It was as though he clearly missed a lot of what was going on.”
The media ate that stuff up, but it was pretty tame compared to the attacks on Gold Star mother Cindy Sheehan, who managed to find a voice in the media for expressing opposition to the war. Fred Barnes of Fox News labeled Sheehan a “crackpot.” Conservative blogs then started talking about Sheehan’s divorce, her angry Republican in-laws, her supposed political flip-flops, her incendiary sloganeering and her association with known ticket-stub-carrying attendees of Fahrenheit 9/11. Rush Limbaugh said her “story is nothing more than forged documents – there’s nothing about it that’s real. Bush himself declared Cindy unrepresentative of most military families he meets, and labeled anti-war protestors as dangerous isolationists who embolden terrorists.
And what about members of the media who reported unpleasant truths? Well, let’s bear in mind the tale of Jeffrey Kofman, an ABC reporter. On July 15, 2003, one week after Donald Rumsfeld told certain troops they would be going home, Kofman covered a story in which American soldiers in Falluja described low moral in Iraq and spoke angrily of how their tour of duty had been extended yet again. The White House retaliated, using Matt Drudge. His Drudge Report website posted the headline: “ABC News Reporter Who Filed Troops Complaint Story — Openly Gay Canadian.” When asked about the story, Drudge pointed to the White House as his source.
And then there’s Jose Bustani, a Brazilian diplomat and former director of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which oversees the destruction of two million chemical weapons and two-thirds of the world’s chemical weapon facilities. The Bush Administration attacked and ultimately ousted him for failing to cooperate with the Administration’s decision to attack Iraq.
The Bush Administration also sought to undermine the IAEA and its Director General Mohammed ElBaradei as retribution for revealing the Niger documents (allegedly evidence of an Iraqi nuclear program) to be forgeries. Cheney denounced the IAEA on television, and the White House made a push to oust ElBaradei from the agency. The Administration’s retaliation campaign included a complete halt of intelligence-sharing with the agency, recruitment of potential replacements and eavesdropping on his calls in search of ammunition to use against ElBaradei and the IAEA.
There are so many people to remember, but let’s not leave out Bunnatine Greenhouse, the chief contracting officer at the Army Corps of Engineers. In October 2004, Ms. Greenhouse came forward and revealed that top Pentagon officials had shown improper favoritism to Halliburton when awarding military contracts. Greenhouse stated that when the Pentagon awarded Halliburton a five-year $7 billion contract, it pressured her to withdraw her objections, actions which she claimed were unprecedented in her experience. The Army demoted Ms. Greenhouse, removing her from the elite Senior Executive Service and transferring her to a lesser job in the corps’ civil works division.
The Bush Administration also undermined and used the CIA and its analysts as a scapegoat for its own failings. Among other things, the White House blamed the CIA and George Tenet for the Niger reference in the State of the Union address after the CIA had sought to modify, if not delete, the reference. Tenet was gone by early 2004.
The Bush Administration also retaliated against two officials who sought to provide accurate information regarding the Administration’s inappropriate reliance on the Iraqi defector known as “Curveball” and his alleged statements regarding mobile chemical weapons laboratories. The first is “Jerry,” who led a CIA unit that went to Iraq and found Curveball’s claims to be blatantly false and misleading. After he did so, he was chastised and transferred. According to The Los Angeles Times: “Back home . . . Jerry was ‘read the riot act’ and accused of ‘making waves’ by his office director, according to the presidential commission. He and his colleague ultimately were transferred out of the weapons center.”
Another victim was David Kay, head of the Iraq Survey Group, which found the Bush Administration’s WMD claims to be inaccurate, including its reliance on Curveball. “In December 2003,” according to the LA Times, “Kay flew back to C.I.A. headquarters. He said he told Tenet that Curveball was a liar and he was convinced Iraq had no mobile labs or other illicit weapons. C.I.A. officials confirm their exchange. Kay said he was assigned to a windowless office without a working telephone. On Jan. 20, 2004, Bush lauded Kay and the Iraq Survey Group in his State of the Union Speech for finding ‘weapons of mass destruction-related program activities. . . . Had we failed to act, the dictator’s weapons of mass destruction program would continue to this day.’ Kay quit three days later and went public with his concerns.”
In spring 2001, according to the New York Times, an informant told the CIA that Iraq had abandoned a major element of its nuclear weapons program. However, according to a CIA officer, the agency did not share the information with other agencies or with senior policy makers. The officer, an employee for the agency for more than 20 years, including several years in intelligence related to illicit weapons, was fired in 2004. In his lawsuit, the officer states that his dismissal was punishment for his reports questioning the agency’s assumptions on a series of weapons-related matters and with the agency’s intelligence conclusions.
Each of these cases of retribution for truth-telling is discussed and documented in Congressman John Conyers’ report, “The Constitution in Crisis; The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Coverups in the Iraq War.” See pages 113 – 133.