Saturday, July 27, 2013

America's Secret Enemies

Back in college I was in a square dance club. (This was Rice University. Yes, they had a square dance club; trot out all the Rice stereotypes, because they all applied. Well, all except the TRG stereotype; many of the young ladies were beautiful.)

In the square dance club was a fellow named Doug. Doug's whole raison d'être was ROTC. (Trot out all the ROTC stereotypes; they, too, all applied.) Doug usually attended dances in his ROTC uniform. Doug was always trying to impress the ladies with his supposed involvement in secret military activities. (This was Rice University. The ladies weren't fooled for even a moment.)

In breaks between dances, Doug had a pattern. He would begin a story apparently about some military matter, a story designed to provoke a polite listener into asking a polite question allowing Doug to pursue the story. Doug would go to great lengths to induce his listener to ask such a question. When the listener asked (if for no other reason than to get Doug to shut up), Doug would stiffen his spine, assume a very dark, serious expression on his face, and say, barely audibly, scarcely parting his lips,
It was very important to Doug to appear to be very important.

Which brings me at long last to the substance of this post. The indefatigable emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler) has a lot to say On the Growing Fight Against America’s Secret Enemies. Wheeler begins by quoting Cora Currier at Pro Publica:
At a hearing in May, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., asked the Defense Department to provide him with a current list of Al Qaeda affiliates.

The Pentagon responded – but Levin’s office told ProPublica they aren’t allowed to share it. Kathleen Long, a spokeswoman for Levin, would say only that the department’s “answer included the information requested.”

A Pentagon spokesman told ProPublica that revealing such a list could cause “serious damage to national security.”

Sometimes even members of Congress... e.g., Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who sits on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence... have been told they may not have the list of enemies. Wyden finally obtained access to the list in February. And he was not, and as far as I know is not, able to tell the public.

This poses a real dilemma. It is a treasonable act for an American citizen to give aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States. But who, exactly, must we not aid? Sorry... "WE CAN'T TELL YOU THAT."

Square-dancing ROTC Doug must be in hog heaven (Doug heaven?) these days.

As to how you and I can avoid giving aid and comfort to America's enemies, without official information on just who those enemies are?

You can't. You're on your own. "WE CAN'T TELL YOU THAT."

UPDATE: Wheeler has also recently written on a related topic, Candidate Obama’s Tribute to Whistleblowers Disappears Two Days after First Snowden Revelations. It seems Obama's past remarks about the virtues of whistleblowers are silently disappearing from his web sites. I suppose the boot is on the other neck now.


  1. They keep the list secret so that they can add you or I or any other entity to it when it suits their purpose...just like the no fly lists. Oh! and we are always at war and you need an enemy to be at war.

    1. fallenmonk, I've probably been on government lists since the late Sixties or early Seventies. I remember one of my first Viet Nam War protests at Rice U.; there were "students" (obviously gov't agents attempting to dress like students) walking around taking pics of everyone. Decades later in the GeeDubya Bush terms, I was at a pre-Iraq-war protest and there were... I am not making this up... black helicopters flying above us as we held our signs at Mecom Fountain in the middle of Main Street in Houston. If a future historian wishes to profile you or me, they need only apply to the feral gummint for pics, lists of events, etc. A charming notion, eh?

  2. Pentagon: Americans must give up Liberties to fight “enemies” but we won’t say who they are (Currier)

    1. Enfant, I am glad to see Cora Currier's ProPublica article getting so much attention. Many Americans are too focused on their daily activities to even notice that this is happening. I can certainly understand "outrage fatigue," but we can't let them overwhelm us: absolute idiocy such as classifying an enemies list is too reminiscent of Richard Nixon to be tolerated. Now is the time to be vocal in opposition to secrecy in government.



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