This was an interesting weekend. There was the firing the CIA’s Mary McCarthy, accused of leaking information about U.S. secret detention centers abroad, a detail the administration kept classified in order, one can only imagine, to avoid having to explain itself in-country and to the world. And although this White House couches everything in terms of national security and the war in Iraq this particularly devious maneuver would have been and continues to be a hard sell. It can be argued that McCarthy had other ways of dealing with her misgivings, but the fact remains that the American people are too often not informed about what is being done in their name.
Are most of us comfortable, for example, with the fact that our government authorizes the kidnapping of people off streets and at airports in order to “render” them to prisons in other countries where they may be tortured but we can deny direct participation? Is it okay with us that such actions are undertaken in disregard of legal constraints and that detainees are just disappeared without explanation and released after long periods of incarceration without apology?
If our government cannot provide some better rationale than the open-ended platitudes they keep delivering about the “global war on terror” aren’t we in danger of having reached a point of moral irrelevance? How, in fact, do we foster a belief in democratic values when we engage in tactics reminiscent of the secret police in fascist regimes? The suspicion grows that this administration’s secrecy is less about keeping us safe than it is about keeping us from learning the truth about its incompetence and ulterior motives.
The president could have chosen a new head of the CIA from the ranks of that organization or someone apolitical who was experienced in the intelligence field. Instead he chose a partisan from Congress, Porter Goss, who could be counted on to champion the policies of the White House and investigate dissenters and whistleblowers. The result of having Goss at CIA is that not only are the three branches of government in the hands of a single party but our intelligence agency is owned and operated by the Republican Party as well. This is not a comfortable arrangement and it is an impediment that keeps ordinary Americans from making informed judgments about the direction in which our country is to be led.
It is curious that McCarthy may be charged with a criminal act and those to whom she told her story brought in for questioning, when members of the administration have leaked classified and precipitously declassified information of much more dangerous import – – in one case disclosing the identity of a Pakistani “mole” to make a case for their “success” on the war on terrorism and, of course, in the case of Valerie Plame. At least it is possible to understand why someone outside the administration may find it impossible to get heard except by leaking information to the press.
But does it ever occur to anyone to ask why the administration should feel a need to “leak” information? After all they have a press secretary, and all manner of ways to make their case – – the president can have a swath of mikes spread out before him at a moment’s notice. Why not just stand before the American people and tell it like they want us to think it is? What’s the need to engage in the clandestine practice of unattributed comments and blatant leaks when you own the bully pulpit? One can only wonder. Maybe it’s because the guise of this president being a straight talker is just that. We haven’t heard anything remotely resembling the truth for a long time.
Unexpectedly, over the weekend, I found myself transfixed and moved by a speech John Kerry gave on the 35th anniversary of remarks he made to Congress upon his return from Viet Nam. In response to critics at the time who criticized war protesters by saying “my country right or wrong…” Kerry replied then – – “Yes, my country right or wrong. When right keep it right, when wrong, make it right.” And, he added, “…that’s what we must do again today.” Indeed.

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