It seems that much of the nation rolled over on Tuesday night last week, lit a post election cigarette and dreamily congratulated themselves on a wonderful performance. Was it okay for you?
I’ve never seen anything like the global swoon we’ve been experiencing since the polls closed and Obama’s victory was announced. "OMG," cries the public, fueled by a media that got itself a bit more than a little pregnant, "how wonderful we are for electing Obama."
Maybe I’m just a cynical, churlish idiot, but I woke up after the election with a feeling that, while historic, the result was more a vote against Bush than a vote for Obama. Dazzled by his speechifying and supercool ways, the partygoers opted for style over substance… for campaign skills over any discernible leadership record. Sure, we know he doesn’t have any significant experience and seems too smooth to be true, but what the hell. As a nation, we went out to the bar with our change goggles on.
So there we are the next morning, staring at our new companion for at least the next four years. You feel good for having brought home the most attractive candidate, and you did show how progressive you are… but what’s the person really like? Never mind. Let’s enjoy the feel good moment for a bit longer. Soon enough we’ll have to get out of bed and get something done. Here’s hoping the relationship works out and he’s a keeper.
By the way, in last week’s PWB, we asked readers to tell us what they learned from the lengthy campaign process. The mailbag has been jammed with responses ever since. As a result, at the beginning of this week I formed a committee, led by Bobo the talking intern, to select the top ten reader responses to the question, "What have I learned from this campaign season?" Since then, the committee has been huddled in the conference room compiling the list and playing a lot of foosball. Their decisions will remain secret until next week, at which time we’ll announce the winners.
Unless of course one of the committee members opens their yap and leaks the results ahead of schedule. That would be unfortunate. There’s a no-leak policy here at the PWB, it’s enshrined in our employee handbook on page 7 in the section titled "Keep Your Piehole Shut."
In summary, if any staff or interns are unable to keep confidential information confidential, they shall be terminated. I also included a multi-panel drawing showing an employee being told a secret, then revealing the secret, then being escorted out of the office. Diagrams are always helpful in employee handbooks.
I mention this because just this past week we’ve been reminded how difficult it seems to be for some people to shut up. And refreshingly, this isn’t a Democratic or Republican thing, this is across the board. For some reason, usually because they’re complete tools looking to show how clever or important they are, many people can’t help talking out of turn.
This is why, when confronted by a rabid conspiracy theorist convinced that there is an evil cabal somewhere pulling the strings and screwing us all, I stare at them slack jawed while my thought balloon asks "Are you really that stupid?" Somebody in that cabal, whether at the top or the bottom of the cabal ladder, would eventually leak to the press.
The other day President Bush and the First Lady hosted President Elect Obama and his family at the White House. While the First Lady and soon to be First Lady successfully managed to keep their discussions private, we quickly learned from "anonymous sources" that Bush and Obama reportedly talked about striking a tit-for-tat deal on economic issues.
This is a classic example where grownups, you would’ve thought, would be disciplined enough to keep a lid on what was discussed in supposedly private discussions between two of the most powerful folks on the planet. How difficult is this concept?
It appears that the leak came from an Obama staffer, undoubtedly one currently consumed with their self importance and access. If the Obama transition team needs some help with the wording, I’d be happy to provide you with section 7 from the PWB employee handbook.
Also during the same week, the New York Times ran a front page article based on classified information provided from "anonymous sources" within the military and/or government. The story highlighted a heretofore secret executive order (exord) signed back in 2004 that gave authority for counterterrorist operations in certain countries in pursuit of Al Qaeda.
Basically, in carefully selected circumstances where operational intelligence warrants the risk, the exord allows US personnel to cross into listed countries to carry out operations against defined terrorist targets. I believe the codename for the exord is “Basic Common Sense”.
The New York Times managed to gather information on this exord from individuals, either currently active or retired, incapable of keeping their respective pieholes shut. Perhaps the sources disagree with the order and feel it their solemn duty to talk to a reporter. Maybe someone was upset over how the exord was managed or interpreted. It could be that one or more of the sources talked because they are starved for attention or recognition.
What they do have in common is an apparent inability to understand the concept of classified information and a disregard for whatever oath of office they took upon entering government or the military. Got a bone to pick? Go to the press, leak a little. Who cares if it’s classified… aren’t we all better off in a completely transparent society? What a load of crap.
If your job is to work with classified information… if you’ve been trusted with that authority and responsibility, then do your job and keep your mouth shut. If you want to talk to the press for whatever reason, man up, quit your job and go on the record. You’ll still be breaking your oath, but at least the rest of us could enjoy watching you deal with the consequences.
As always, we look forward to your comments, thoughts and insight. Send your e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike Baker served for more than 15 years as a covert field operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, specializing in counterterrorism, counternarcotics and counterinsurgency operations around the globe. Since leaving government service, he has been a principal in building and running several companies in the private intelligence, security and risk management sector, including most recently Prescience LLC, a global intelligence and strategy firm. He appears frequently in the media as an expert on such issues. Baker is also a partner in Classified Trash, a film and television production company. Baker serves as a script consultant, writer and technical adviser within the entertainment industry, lending his expertise to such programs as the BBC's popular spy series "Spooks," as well as major motion pictures.