The 5th Estate and The Resistance

1/3:  My sense is that a resistance is already in place – not from democrats in Congress, or protesters marching in the streets – but within the executive agencies themselves:


I’ve posted this before, but see it becoming both increasingly relevant, and apparent that there is a struggle taking place:

More on Donald Trump and the Justice Department
By Benjamin Wittes Wednesday, June 8, 2016, 4:25 PM

“First and most importantly, the bureaucracy is the front line of defense against executive abuses. So yes, in my opinion, my correspondent and others like him have—as he puts it—some “ethical and civic responsibility to stay here to do [their] small part to try to keep things in check.” The amount of damage that an abusive chief executive can effectuate is dramatically lessened if he has professional staff that will only behave legally and ethically. 

…. That means that people acculturated to modern ethical and legal norms of behavior among government lawyers should remain in place, at least at the outset. The same is true of FBI agents and CIA officers. It’s important, very important, that the government be staffed at the career level by people who know the lines they will not cross.


Bureaucracy – the Fifth Estate

One of the deepest impressions I took away from Afghanistan 2009-10 was an appreciation *for bureaucracy. 

#Bureaucracy in the United States carries a lot of baggage, and negative connotations, and yet, what struck me in Afghanistan was the challenge of sustaining a democracy amidst rampant corruption, when the country had a ~92% illiteracy rate. 

A competent bureaucracy was precisely what was needed, because how do you fight corrupt practices and run an accountable government when the vast majority of the people cannot read or write? We had one out of twenty Afghan National Police on our outpost who was literate – i.e., only one person could document witness statements, keep records, etc. – sometimes tedious things to ensure shit wasn’t just made up out – and that there was a Process for things.

You leave a place like Afghanistan with its history of tribalism and Warlords, in an externally imposed and nascent attempt at a centralized democracy, and you just think, if only they had a Bureaucracy- a functioning and professional Civil Service working in institutions free of all the cronyism, nepotism, parochial influences that manifests itself in the corruption.
Well, maybe this is the last line in the United Stated for those who fear Executive overreach – that those who make the Bureacracy is up to snuff, and having spent more than a spot-Political Appointee term at one thing or another, know what lines they will not cross. 


What Trump has said about the CIA and the military has “put us in a difficult position, but the flip side is there is an institutional ability to survive,” said a second senior U.S. official. 

“Bureaucracies chug along and take lumps and have conflicts. If you ask about rank and file, for a long time there has been a sense that [presidents and administrations] come and go, but we’re still here. You’ve got to assume that the Foreign Service at State, generals at the Department of Defense, have that belief. There’s an institutional stability built into the system that can withstand spasms.”

4/6: Feb 24, 2016

Say what you will, your USG is not a monolithic entity of robotic bureaucrats. There may be folks who disagree with you on issues, whether due to personal ideology, or job role, but they are not inherently unreasonable, even when under immense political pressure from elected leaders.

Now, imagine if a Trump, who proposes things that constitutional scholars of all political inclinations pan as unconstitutional, were president, and simply said, ok “You’re fired” and put into the Executive Branch a cabal of Yes Men.

Essentially, think of Nixon, but probably worse. Much worse.

Watergate and Nixon era intelligence scandals broke a lot of trust the American people had in its government, that today’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies still pay a price in trying to overcome – e.g. the broad distrust between Academia and law enforcement that has roots in historical enmities, and has never recovered in a way that the relationship between the public and the Vietnam era US military has.

The way the President of the United States intends to wield the instruments of Executive Power can diminish those instruments standing with the American people for years to come, and long after those Presidents are gone – and to the detriment of American society. 

We’ve not, it seems, gone over a tipping point, in which the breach becomes too wide to mend, but, given the tenor of a Trump candidacy, its disdain for rule of law, and the demeanor of Trump himself, where this puck is heading toward is scary indeed.


“The next day, as terrorist bombs killed more than 200 commuters on rail lines in Madrid, the White House approved the executive order without any signature from the Justice Department certifying its legality. Comey responded by drafting his letter of resignation, effective the next day, March 12.

“I couldn’t stay if the administration was going to engage in conduct that the Department of Justice had said had no legal basis,” he said. “I just simply couldn’t stay.” Comey testified he was going to be joined in a mass resignation by some of the nation’s top law enforcement officers: Ashcroft, Mueller, Ayres and Comey’s own chief of staff.
Ayres persuaded Comey to delay his resignation, Comey testified. “Mr. Ashcroft’s chief of staff asked me something that meant a great deal to him, and that is that I not resign until Mr. Ashcroft was well enough to resign with me,” he said.

The threat became moot after an Oval Office meeting March 12 with Bush, Comey said. After meeting separately with Comey and Mueller, Bush gave his support to making changes in the program, Comey testified.

“Reflecting the context of this heart-breaking case, I hope folks will take a deep breath and stop saying the world is ending, but instead use that breath to talk to each other. Although this case is about the innocents attacked in San Bernardino, it does highlight that we have awesome new technology that creates a serious tension between two values we all treasure: privacy and safety. That tension should not be resolved by corporations that sell stuff for a living. It also should not be resolved by the FBI, which investigates for a living. It should be resolved by the American people deciding how we want to govern ourselves in a world we have never seen before. We shouldn’t drift to a place—or be pushed to a place by the loudest voices—because finding the right place, the right balance, will matter to every American for a very long time.”


This is probably disturbing to both many liberals and many conservatives, who view Comey as the reincarnation of Hoover, and know his name primarily through the context of the presidential elections (and might have also believed he would be gone regardless of who won the elections.)

I have different views, from a sense of what I’ve gathered both over the years and also how he has responded to different situations.

Nevermind what my dreams tell me – 😂

(And then the shitstorm hit, except it was Attorney General Lynch punting on the decision – but only after compromising herself by being caught meeting privately with Bill Clinton – and we know the rest of the story)


“They should insist in being heard.”
9:00 – 11:00

General Anthony Zinni, United States Marine Corps; The Obligation to Speak the Truth;
2003, United States Naval Academy:

“Senator McCain was very upset with me, and he said to me, “What gives you the right to question this?” Later on, I got the same question from the National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger: “What gives you the right to question this?” My response was the First Amendment. You know, they didn’t appreciate that answer, but that’s what gave me the right.

And I mentioned to the Senate Armed Services Committee that, unless I forgot something, when I first came before you to be confirmed as the Commander in Chief of U.S. Central Command, Senator Strom Thurmond required of me to raise my hand and swear that I would come before this committee in the Senate and give my honest opinion and my honest views, even if they were in opposition to Administration policy or any other policies that may have been implemented by our government. I swore to do that, and yet those who were not hearing what they wanted to hear objected to it. It was very painful.

I managed to get called over to see my boss, the Secretary of Defense, along with the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, and got an appropriate portion of my anatomy chewed on. I had to respond to questions like: “Why did you do this? Why did you say this to the Senate?” And I said, “Because they needed to hear the answer. They needed to understand my view, that I have an obligation if asked a question to provide that.” I asked the Secretary of Defense, “Do you think I’m wrong? Do you agree with them and disagree with me, because if that’s the case, then you know, you obviously need to get another Commander in Chief.” He said, “No, I agree with you, but I disagree with the way you said it.” I said, “Well, I don’t understand. I spoke in declarative sentences. I know that’s unusual for Washington, but you know, it’s the way I was brought up.”

The Undersecretary for Policy said, “No, you don’t understand the problem. You weren’t nuanced enough,” and I said, “You know, if you want nuance, don’t send a Marine. We don’t do nuance very well.”

The Undersecretary for Policy said, “No, you don’t understand the problem. You weren’t nuanced enough,” and I said, “You know, if you want nuance, don’t send a Marine. We don’t do nuance very well.”

Not long after that, David Hackworth, one of my favorite guys, because he is irreverent and p—-s everybody off, wrote an article in 1999 about Marine generals, and he said, in effect, “What is it with most of these Marine generals? They get inoculated with double shots of truth serum in boot camp? Why is it that Jack Sheehan, Chuck Krulak, Charlie Wilhelm, and Tony Zinni speak their minds? Why doesn’t anybody else speak their minds?” I liked it. Most of my bosses didn’t.

There is an obligation when you are in uniform to follow orders. There may become a point in time in your career when you have to make a decision. Your choices are only two: to follow those orders or to step aside. You have no other choice when you swear that oath to the Constitution of the United States except to follow the orders of our Commander in Chief, but you have, up until that point when you have to make that decision, a sincere obligation to give your honest view and opinion on what’s going to happen and what in your view is right or wrong about the decision that’s being made.

If you speak out, you’re going to find that there are things that work against you speaking out. One of them is the question of loyalty. You’re required obviously to be loyal to your bosses and loyal to the system…. There can be an issue that you feel you need to deal with, you need to speak out on. It’s a personal decision. It’s a difficult one to make. What you have to say may not be well received. What you have to say may come back in some way to harm you career-wise or other ways. 

In my war, back when I was your age, we went into a conflict, as you heard Secretary of Defense McNamara say, with the right intentions, but we did it the wrong way and found the wrong cause. We created an incident, the Tonkin Gulf incident. We had the United States of America and its citizens believe in the President of the United States, who created a falsehood for going into war. 

We fought, based on a strategy that I believe the decision-makers felt was right, the domino theory. If you don’t stop communism in Vietnam, all of Southeast Asia will begin to fall, and it will affect us adversely around the world. It was a flawed strategy. It was based on a lie, and we fought it terribly. We didn’t mobilize this nation for that war. We went to individual replacements instead of unit replacements and made a whole series of mistakes and bad decisions at the lowest tactical levels all the way up to the highest strategic policy decisions. We can’t let that happen, when you get yourself in that strange situation where you need to trust and believe in your leadership and that point where you as someone who has sworn an oath to the Constitution must obey the order or step aside, but have those doubts and those gnawing concerns that tug at your heart.

No one can give you the right answer. It’s pretty clear what your obligations are in terms of whom you answer to and what kinds of answers you’re supposed to provide, but in most cases, the timing, the decision to speak out, ends up having to be a personal one. There is no universal rule about all this, and it’s very difficult for anyone senior to you to give you the advice on how to do it. Those judgments have to be made from within.

We do not swear an oath to the President of the United States. We do not swear an oath to the king or the queen. Each one of us swears an oath to the Constitution of the United States. It is unique. Even our closest allies, the Brits who are on the battlefield with us, swear an oath to an individual, to the Queen. We don’t. You swear an oath to a concept, to an ideal, to a law, and with that comes the obligation to protect the men and women that you’re responsible for, to protect the concept, the values, the ideals of what our country stands for, and it supersedes any obligation or duty to any one individual. What goes with that is the understanding that when the order is issued, you have to follow it or step aside, but up to that point, there is this obligation to speak out and to speak the truth.


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