Enough with the ex post facto apologies. We need government officials and uniformed officers to come forward before the next ill-conceived invasion or the next prisoner abuse scandal. A group of former government officials are joining forces to call on their colleagues to speak out—and perhaps help to prevent the next tragedy.
Ray McGovern, a 27-year veteran CIA analyst, is a member of the steering group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and a member of the Truth-Telling Coalition.
There are some hopeful signs that government and military officials—active as well as retired—are beginning to recognize they have a duty to their fellow citizens to inform them of decisions that can seriously impact the country’s national security. Last week, a group we call "The Truth-Telling Coalition" issued a formal Appeal to Current Government Officials to reflect on whether they best serve the country by continuing to keep silent about major mistakes and abuses or by speaking out. We are particularly concerned that officials disclose the truth about the war on Iraq—because to conceal information could likely lead to more death and destruction. Just a few days after we issued our appeal, we we encouraged to learn that a serving U.S. Marine general decided to share openly with the press his chagrin at the flip-flopping orders he received to attack Fallujah—and then abruptly stop after the attack was under way.
After turning over command of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq on Sunday, Marine Lt. Gen. James T. Conway did not let a day pass before excoriating higher officials for misguided and counterproductive orders to attack the Iraqi Sunni stronghold of Fallujah after the killing of four U.S. security contractors.
Conway did not repeat the damaging criticism of UN envoy in Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi, and many others that the attack amounted to "collective punishment" of Fallujah residents. The Marine general did observe that the attack "certainly increased the level of animosity that existed." Conway stressed the stupidity of ordering such an attack, in which six Marines were killed and six more wounded, and then being told to halt after just three days.
A handful of former Iraqi generals then formed the "Fallujah Brigade" and was put in charge of the city. The 800 AK-47 assault weapons, 27 pick-up trucks and 50 radios that the Marines gave this "Brigade" wound up in the hands of the resistance, which remains in control of Fallujah, and have been used against the Marines in the environs of the city.
Asked who issued the order to attack and then halt, Conway would only say that he had advised against the attack in the first place but that "We follow our orders." According to The Washington Post , some senior officials in Iraq have said the command originated in the White House.
Think about it. How rare is it that an active-duty Marine lieutenant general will speak out in such fashion? Whether or not Conway had already heard of last Thursday's appeal to government officials for "unauthorized truth-telling," Conway 's candor is surely a hopeful sign that the campaign by the newly established Truth-Telling Coalition is off to a promising start.
Appeal for Unauthorized Truth-Telling
At a press conference in Washington, D.C., Thursday morning, the Coalition launched its drive to encourage more, well...courage among those in government ranks, and challenged them to "give higher allegiance to the Constitution, the sovereign public, and the young men and women put in harm's way" than to their bosses, agencies and careers. Dan Ellsberg'sTruth-Telling Project , the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Project on Government Oversight are part of the Coalition.
Fleshing out their appeal, the Coalition listed 12 documents, including Army staff studies supporting Gen. Eric Shinseki's estimate before the war that several hundred thousand troops would be needed.
The Truth-Telling Coalition Appeal and the list of documents appear below:
TO: Current Government Officials
FROM: Concerned Alumni
It is time for unauthorized truth-telling.
Citizens cannot make informed choices if they do not have the facts—for example, the facts that have been wrongly concealed about the ongoing war in Iraq: the real reasons behind it, the prospective costs in blood and treasure, and the setback it has dealt to efforts to stem terrorism. Administration deception and cover-up on these vital matters has so far been all too successful in misleading the public.
Many Americans are too young to remember Vietnam. Then, as now, senior government officials did not tell the American people the truth. Now, as then, insiders who know better have kept their silence, as the country was misled into the most serious foreign policy disaster since Vietnam.
Some of you have documentation of wrongly concealed facts and analyses that—if brought to light—would impact heavily on public debate regarding crucial matters of national security, both foreign and domestic. We urge you to provide that information now, both to Congress and, through the media, to the public.
Thanks to our First Amendment, there is in America no broad Officials Secrets Act, nor even a statutory basis for the classification system. Only very rarely would it be appropriate to reveal information of the three types whose disclosure has been expressly criminalized by Congress: communications intelligence, nuclear data, and the identity of US intelligence operatives. However, this administration has stretched existing criminal laws to cover other disclosures in ways never contemplated by Congress.
There is a growing network of support for whistleblowers. In particular, for anyone who wishes to know the legal implications of disclosures they may be contemplating, the ACLU stands ready to provide pro bono legal counsel, with lawyer-client privilege. The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) will offer advice on whistleblowing, dissemination and relations with the media.
Needless to say, any unauthorized disclosure that exposes your superiors to embarrassment entails personal risk. Should you be identified as thesource, the price could be considerable, including loss of career and possibly even prosecution. Some of us know from experience how difficult it is to countenance such costs. But continued silence brings an even more terrible cost, as our leaders persist in a disastrous course and young Americans come home in coffins or with missing limbs.
This is precisely what happened at this comparable stage in the Vietnam War. Some of us live with profound regret that we did not at that point expose the administration’s dishonesty and perhaps prevent the needless slaughter of 50,000 more American troops and some 2 to 3 million Vietnamese over the next ten years. We know how misplaced loyalty to bosses, agencies, and careers can obscure the higher allegiance all government officials owe the Constitution, the sovereign public, and the young men and women put in harm’s way. We urge you to act on those higher loyalties.
A hundred forty thousand young Americans are risking their lives every day in Iraq for dubious purpose. Our country has urgent need of comparable moral courage from its public officials. Truth-telling is a patriotic and effective way to serve the nation. The time for speaking out is now.
Call to Patriotic Truth Telling
Edward Costello, Former Special Agent (Counterintelligence), Federal Bureau of Investigation
Sibel Edmonds, Former Language Specialist, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Daniel Ellsberg, Former official, U.S. Departments of Defense and State
John D. Heinberg, Former Economist, Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor
Larry C. Johnson, Former Deputy Director for Anti-Terrorism Assistance, Transportation Security, and Special Operations, Department of State, Office of the Coordinator for Counter Terrorism
Lt. Col Karen Kwiatowski, USAF (ret.), who served in the Pentagon's Office of Near East Planning
John Brady Kiesling, Former Political Counselor, U.S. Embassy, Athens, Department of State
David MacMichael, Former Senior Estimates Officer, National Intelligence Council, Central Intelligence Agency
Ray McGovern, Former Analyst, Central Intelligence Agency
Philip G. Vargas, Ph.D., J.D., Dir. Privacy & Confidentiality Study, Commission on Federal Paperwork (Author/Director: "The Vargas Report on Government Secrecy" -- CENSORED)
Ann Wright, Retired U.S. Army Reserve Colonel and U.S. Foreign Service Officer
Twelve Examples of Existing Documents That Deserve Unauthorized Disclosure
Each of these—wrongly withheld up till now--could and should be released almost in their entirety, perhaps with minor deletions for genuine security reasons. (In many cases, official promises to release declassified versions have not been honored.)
1. Reports by International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Guantanamo, Abu Ghrab and other prisons (ships, prisons in other countries) that hold prisoners from the “war on terrorism”. (These reports have been provided to the US government but have not been made
2. 28 pages redacted from the report of the Joint House-Senate Inquiry on Intelligence Activities before and after 9/11, concerning the ties between the 9/11 terrorists and the government of Saudi Arabia.
3. 800 pages of the United Nations Report on Weapons of Mass Destruction that were taken by the United States during unauthorized Xeroxing and never given to the Security Council members. (The original report was 1200 pages in length but has never been published in its entirety)
4. Membership, advisors, consultants to Vice President Cheney’s Energy Task Force, and any minutes from meetings (January – December, 2001).
5. Documents and photographs concerning/produced by military doctors or medical personnel that document abuses toward prisoners condoned by medical personnel.
6. Documents produced by military lawyers and legal staff that challenge the political policy makers decision to undercut the Geneva Conventions and any other extra-legal procedures.
7. The missing sections of the US Army General Taguba report on prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan.
8. Department of Justice-Inspector General (DOJ-IG) Report: RE: Sibel Edmonds vs. FBI, completed, classified
9. DOJ-IG Report: RE: FBI Translation Department (security breaches, intentional mistranslations, espionage charges), completed, classified
10. DOJ-IG Report: RE:FBI & Foreknowledge of 9/11, completed, classified
11. Full staff backup to General Shinseki’s 2002 estimate that “several hundred thousand troops” would be required for effective occupation of Iraq.
12. The full 2002 State Department studies on requirements for the postwar occupation and restoration of civil government in Iraq.