The Use and Abuse of Secrecy

The Use and Abuse of Secrecy

Here's a great example from a lecture by a former agent (this is real life experience as opposed to the crap spin you get on so many political blogs):

The Administration’s ignoring of the law in the case of wiretapping is but one part of what I see as an emerging pattern or practice of illegal and unethical conduct.
When my CIA classmate, Valerie Wilson’s cover was exposed by the White House in 2003, I as well as other members of my class appeared in October of that year on Nightline to explain the consequences of that unprecedented act. It was from that program that the CIA leak case became a national story. Behind the scenes, there is an interesting, as well as informative story.

After the Nightline program, my fellow classmates and I wrote a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee requesting a hearing to explain our side of the story. That letter was ignored until we were contacted by Senator Tom Daschle’s staff offering a Democratic Senate hearing in the Capital. The Senate Democratic offer was accepted and a hearing was set for a Friday morning in Washington. Almost immediately after the Democratic hearing became public, we were notified by the Senate Intelligence Committee staff that we would be granted a hearing before a closed session of the Senate Intelligence Committee. That hearing was to take place the afternoon of the day before the Friday Senate hearing. We accepted that as well.

I flew to Washington and appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday. The thrust of my delivery to the Committee was that we, the classmates of Valerie Wilson, were betrayed. We were betrayed because whether we were inside or outside the Agency, we kept her identity a secret for more than 18 years. There was nothing “secret” about my remarks.

Following my delivery to the Committee on that Thursday afternoon, I left the Senate offices and went to a nearby park. While sitting on a park bench I received a call from Senator Daschle’s office with a message: Senate Republican Pat Roberts, Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, had declared all of my testimony before the Committee “secret”. I was then asked if I could still testify the next day before the Senate Democrats or whether I would have to first check for approval with the CIA legal affairs office. I was flabbergasted and didn’t know what to say. I had to think about it. I had to call back.

As I sat on that park bench there were many thoughts running through my mind. I had signed a secrecy agreement upon entering the CIA. If I testified the next day, telling the same story I told the Intelligence Committee, would I be in violation of that agreement? Could the Senate Intelligence Chairman simply declare what I said secret? Would I be arrested or subject to criminal prosecution? Could the CIA even “clear” my remarks within a few hours? Would the public hearing be cancelled and the public not learn of this important issue?

As I sat there, by myself, it was kind of lonely debating the issues in my mind. The first thing I did (and you should keep this in mind at all times! Ha!), I called a lawyer. While this very good friend of mine is probably the brightest, most commonsensical lawyer I know, he knew absolutely nothing about national security law. But we talked, and he helped. I knew there was nothing secret about my testimony, but that didn’t ease my mind as what the Republicans might try to do, based on what they had just done! The more we talked, the angrier I became. I knew what I had to do.

After about 20 minutes of talking and thinking about it, I called Senator Daschle’s staffer and told her to tell the Committee Chairman “to go to hell”.

Read the whole thing..   [John Robb's Weblog]

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