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Wednesday, June 30, 2004

'Anonymous' Outed 

According to Editor & Publisher, Jason Vest of the Boston Phoenix has revealed the name of "Anonymous," the intelligence veteran whose new book Imperial Hubris is reportedly quite good on the malady (the disastrously incompetent prosecution of Bush's "war on terrorism"), less so on the remedy (total war on Islam). So is Vest pulling a Robert Novak? Apparently not:
Vest in his article notes that "at issue here is not just the book's content, but why Anonymous is anonymous. After all, as the Times and others have reported, his situation is nothing like that of Valerie Plame, a covert operative whose ability to work active overseas cases was undermined when someone in the White House blew her cover to journalist Robert Novak in an apparent payback for an inconvenient weapons-of-mass-destruction intelligence report by her husband, Joseph Wilson. Anonymous, on the other hand, is, by the CIA's own admission, a Langley, Va.-bound analyst whose identity has never required secrecy.

"A Phoenix investigation has discovered that Anonymous does not, in fact, want to be anonymous at all -- and that his anonymity is neither enforced nor voluntarily assumed out of fear for his safety, but rather compelled by an arcane set of classified regulations that are arguably being abused in an attempt to spare the CIA possible political inconvenience. In the Phoenix's view, continued deference by the press to a bogus and unwanted standard of secrecy essentially amounts to colluding with the CIA in muzzling a civil servant -- a standard made more ridiculous by the ubiquity of Anonymous's name in both intelligence and journalistic circles."

When asked to confirm or deny his identity in an interview with the Phoenix, Anonymous declined to do either, explaining, "I've given my word I'm not going to tell anyone who I am, as the organization that employs me has bound me by my word."

Jonathan Turley, a national-security-law expert at George Washington University Law School, told Vest, "The requirement that someone publish anonymously is rare, almost unheard-of, particularly if the person is not in a covert position. It seems pretty obvious that the requirement he remain anonymous is motivated solely by political concerns, and ones that have more to do with the CIA."
Just the same, you'll have to click on the link above to find out his name.

Ray McGovern of VIPS (Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity) here describes the dilemma faced by longtime pros like Anonymous -- "let's call him Mike," says McGovern -- who run up against a wall of ideologically-motivated obtuseness:
Here is where Mike's understated outrage shows through most clearly. The undercurrent in both interviews is that his analysis was offered well before the war but, as he told NBC, "senior bureaucrats in the intelligence community (were unwilling) to take the full truth, an unvarnished truth to the president. Whatever danger was posed by Saddamwas almost irrelevant. The boost that (the war) would give to al-Qaeda was easily seen."

Many experienced intelligence analysts will find it easy to identify with Mike's frustration. Put on your analyst hat for a few minutes and put yourself in his place. You have studied the issue with painstaking professionalism for 17 years and have acquired an expert view of the forces at play and the likely result of this or that policy. You warn, you warn, and you warn, as Mike did. And yet, because of wooden-headedness, stupidity, or sycophancy, your superiors disregard your views and you are reduced to looking on helplessly as a calamitous course is set for the country.

Adding insult to injury, you hear Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld confess, as he did on June 6 in Singapore, that "The troubling unknown is whether the extremists are turning out newly trained terrorists faster than the United States can capture or kill them. It is quite clear to me that we do not have a coherent approach to this."

For self-confident analysts, all this creates powerful incentive to publish their own analysis. Once published there is always a chance it might have some resonance--perhaps even influence. In any event, they will be able to tell their grandchildren: Don't blame me; this is what I tried to get them to understand.
Thanks to Zemblan patriots J.M. and J.D. for the McGovern link.

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