On January 3, 2011, the U.S. Government, in its fright over the WikiLeaks releases, granted to all its agencies authority to terminate any Federal employee, diplomat or military member who exhibits unhappiness or who expresses any criticism of anything the American government is doing. Its theory is that an “unhappy” soldier or diplomat may leak information to WikiLeaks about government misconduct, so it is best to remove them from the military or from the diplomatic service before they can do so.
U.S. Government officials are to employ psychiatrists to help support their decisions. These alarming developments reveal how desperate the Obama Administration is to crush dissent and how deeply WikiLeaks has threatened those who cling to power.
All U.S. military personnel and diplomats have at least a “secret” security clearance, with many holding top-secret clearances. Security clearances can be revoked at any time with no trial or even a hearing. The revocation effectively ends the employment of the soldiers and diplomats.
The principal reason given for most revocations is that the soldier or diplomat is no longer deemed “trustworthy.” Untrustworthiness has always been a vague and arbitrary standard. As there are no credible checks and balances on the revocation process, abuses are inevitable. But now the term “untrustworthy” has been expanded such that any pretense of due process and legality has been eliminated.
Jacob J. Lew served for the past two years as a Deputy Secretary of State where he helped oversee a variety of scandals involving abusive security contractors, wasteful spending on new embassy construction, significant over-staffing at embassies such as the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and billions in and mismanaged foreign aid for Iraq and Afghanistan. His disastrous tenure resulted in his promotion as the new Director of the U.S. Office of Management & Budget.
On January 3, 2011, in one of his first acts as OMB Director, Mr. Lew issued a ridiculously titled document called: “Initial Assessments of Safeguarding and Counterintelligence Postures for Classified National Security Information in Automated Systems.” Page 6 sets out the necessary components for all U.S. Government agencies. It contains the following checklist:
“Do you use psychiatrist and sociologist to measure: Relative happiness as a means to gauge trustworthiness? Despondence and grumpiness as a means to gauge waning trustworthiness?”
Disregarding the poor grammar, how does one measure relative happiness and grumpiness? How many U.S. soldiers stationed in Afghanistan might, at some point in their tours, be unhappy? If a U.S. soldier or diplomat should be labeled “unhappy” or “grumpy” how do they contest that? Who determines if the psychiatrist or sociologist is happy? It may be that in a war-zone, the well-adjusted soldiers are the ones who are griping and the “happy” soldiers are the ones who should be removed from duty.
Security is a valid concern for businesses and government. Intel Corporation, in December 2009, published on-line a highly regarded white paper on TARA (threat agent risk assessments). It represents a professional attempt to understand and counter dozens of internal and external security threats, including those posed by disgruntled employees. In contrast, the GAO directive is amateurish and silly.
On December 10, 2004, MSNBC published a story from the Associated Press entitled: “Critics of Iraq war see breakdown of troop morale.” The article begins with the comment that: “Soldiers always gripe.” It goes on to state that:
“For thousands of years soldiers have grumbled about everything from their commanders to their equipment to their shelter and food.”
Should all griping soldiers be removed from the military? P.J. Crowley, now the State Department’s primary spokesman, was quoted as stating that the complaints may be “the tips of a larger iceberg.” What he was saying is that the gripes have value in that they may reveal a much larger underlying problem.
What the GAO is missing is that there are two types of unhappy soldiers. The first consists of those who have negative feelings about their unit, branch of service or country and may wish them harm, while the second consists of those who love their unit, branch of service and country but are exposing legitimate problems and shortcomings which they want corrected. The GAO directive does not task officials with making any distinctions. The U.S. Government’s position seems to be that everyone who complains is a disloyal malcontent and potential WikiLeaks supporter who should be removed from government service.
Obama Administration officials seem to forget that it was malcontents who forced King John in 1215, to sign the Magna Carta. It was unhappy sailors who mutinied aboard the Russian battleships Petropavlovsk and Sevastopol and within the island fortress of Kronstadt in March 1921, to protest Bolshevik rule. It was disgruntled citizens who, in 1773, staged the Boston Tea Party, which helped launch the American revolution against British rule.
Instead of beginning a divisive witch-hunt against soldiers and diplomats who may be seeking to improve the military or their government, the Obama Administration might be better served by studying the pre-Islamic concept of “asabiya”عصبية. Asabiya examines how customs, practices and realities can intermix to bind certain peoples and groups closer together. The response to WikiLeaks should be unity and positive reform not negative hysterics. Mr. Lew and officials at the Pentagon and State Department would be well served to read Philip Ball’s excellent piece on “asabiya” in the August 25, 2005, edition of the Guardian newspaper entitled: “Empire of the Sums.” He explains how “asabiya” has historically provided a smaller force with a decisive military advantage over a larger enemy and how it can bind together people living together on the frontiers of civilization. The Sumerians controlled large parts of what we now call Iraq and Syria with a standing army of just one brigade of 5000 riverine troops. They had asabiya.
For further information and a link to a copy of the Lew directive, see the BBC News report: “Can governments spot whistleblowers?” by Olivia Lang (January 6, 2011).