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The current falderall over laxity in White House security clearances for the President’s son-in-law,  private secretary and speech writer make sense, because we can’t have people who are handling some of the most secretive and sensitive information of our nation being subject to blackmail or other pressure because of undisclosed weaknesses in their background or character. That is why our government has security clearances in the first place. And it is also why it is inconceivable that exceptions have been made at the highest level of that government.

I had a personal experience with security clearance when I was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army just over 50 years ago. I went straight from college graduation into a 10-month Army training program to become an officer, and was immediately assigned to be a staff officer at the headquarters of the Army War College in bucolic Carlisle, Pennsylvania. A couple of months into service there, an Army security agency officer from D.C. showed up to interview me in conjunction with the Secret security clearance required for my posting.

It turned out that the security officer had attended high school with me, though we never had been friends. He had one concern. It turned out he found a record of a prank that my college roommate and I had been involved with several years before. He relished making me explain what was the very silly and unexplainable behavior that got us into trouble.

After the inquisition into a college prank, I got my Secret clearance, and went on as a staff officer at the military’s highest bastion of learning, and also became the public affairs officer for the Army’s nuclear emergency team for the American northeast, and later served as a public affairs officer in Vietnam and was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for similar service in Chicago.

My point is this: the Army took very seriously the investigation related to a low-level security clearance for a new second lieutenant, a half-century ago. And now we have this kurfluffel over repeated lax security investigations at the highest level in the Trump White House. What gives? How are we, the people, supposed to have confidence in our current government leadership, when these high-level people don’t seem to get a fraction of the security oversight given to the lowest level officer in the Army 50 years ago?

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The first reference to Homeland Security was apparently made in a 1997 Pentagon report, and was a term coined by an unknown bureaucrat. In 2002 Peggy Noonan opined that”homeland” seemed like it was not an American term to her.

Since then, and all in the aftermath of 9/11, “homeland” has become all too common, and inappropriate, in my view. To me, it has an isolationist ring to it. Motherland, fatherland, homeland. Intonations of the old world, even of the Nazis. Ask a Jew what the term homeland connotes to them. Probably not Israel.

Of course, one does not deserve to be a critic without offering a better idea. In the last century, the American century as many remember it, we simply used the term “domestic” to refer to things within the United States.  Domestic security said it all, and still does in my book. “Homeland” has a sci-fi otherness associated with it that I have not become comfortable with, a dozen and more years on.

So going forward, I will use the word “domestic” and ban “homeland” from my personal vocabulary in referring to America and our security. And every time I hear a political candidate from either party use “homeland,” I will assume they are pandering to isolationist fears and the status quo of political correctness, and not thinking clearly as a true American would do.

 

On Morning Joe this AM, they referenced the serious journalism of comedian John Oliver when in his show last night he interviewed security leaker Edward Snowden in Moscow. So I watched the show, which I record from DirecTV. In it, among other things, Oliver asked Snowden if a dic pic sent from a husband to his wife over the internet could be captured by the NSA, and Snowden answered yes, it could. Funny bit. But disturbing, in the sense of the degree of invasion of privacy the NSA can accomplish into the personal lives of ordinary Americans. Of course, the rationalization is that national security might require such invasions, on rare occasion, to protect the country from terrorists. Thus, we all must give up all, figuratively and literally, of our privacy for such protection. Excellent journalism, indeed by Oliver. Perhaps he deserves a Pulitzer Prize for journalism,for making plain the sacrifices we are all making, whether we realize it or not, for the sake of potential protection from terror. Of course, I became suspicious when the end of the Snowden interview was cut off by my video recorder, leading me to wonder, just wonder, if the NSA was blocking a portion of John Oliver’s Snowden interview, perhaps because they didn’t want America to discover what bald and bold truths were revealed in the final minutes of the show. Am I jumpy? Maybe. Do I have reason to feel that way? I think so.

Just happened to chose Thunderball from my James Bond collection to watch. Odd thought related to the plane disappearance in Malasia, is that in this 1965 film, a British Vulcan bomber with two atom bombs is hijacked, and soft landed in the shallow waters near Nassau, where the bombs are removed by Specter, and the bomber is covered underwater by camouflage netting. The pilot gassed the crew while he hooked up to oxygen to hijack the plane. Maybe just an odd coincidence I happened to see this tonight, while the search goes on for the Malasian plane.

P1000445If you are research-oriented, look back at my blog postings of yesterday, and of the 4th of July for the past 3 years, and you will see concerns about our losing touch with the meaning of independence, both perceptually and in fact. A big part of independence is our right to privacy. Spies — our own and others — undermine that. And as another day dawns, and we further forget that the meaning of the “4th of July” to Americans is really all about independence and freedom, we lose another piece of our culture, of who we are.

Happy Independence Day 2013!

121836New revelations of vast NSA programs to monitor telephone use to intercept terrorist plans again raises the question of whether the effect of such whistle-blowing of top-secret security processes adds to the cleansing potential of democratic transparency or degrades the ability of our government to protect the population.

The answer is that such revelations result in both increased public oversight, or in other words, enhanced democracy, but also a possibly somewhat weaker security apparatus. In our post-1984 world, where our national politics have been accurately described as “a carnival of dysfunction,” the regular exercise of democratic oversight by the people, through intrusions by well-meaning whistle-blowers and responsible news media, is one way to preserve the fundamental principles of our democracy. My belief is that the cost of such “intrusions” into the inner sanctums of our government security establishment are justified by the balancing results of political and governmental accountability to a society of free people — a people who yearn to remain free in a complicated, dangerous information age.

Chongqing, the world’s largest municipal area with a population approaching 34 million has let a contract under its Safe City program to install 500,000 video surveillance devices. 1984 is coming to Chongqing, as one of China’s leading manufacturing hubs (cars, computers, defense) catches up to the future. However, with its dense air pollution, which we experienced in October, it may take even more cameras to see all that is going on in this sprawling population center.

Julien Assange did not steal the documents, he received them from those who did. Thus he is not a spy. He has chosen to publish some of them — OK, a lot of them. That makes him a journalist, like someone who reports for the NY Times, the Washington Post or the Wall Street Journal, all of which have dealt with classified information given to them. Thus, to prosecute Assange is to criminalize journalism, undermining the first amendment and free speech.

What is disturbing to me is not that he has published these diplomatic documents, but what some of the documents contain — characterizations of officials of other countries that are inconsistent with what our government acknowledges, trite and mean spirited personality profiles that should never have been dignified in official documents, and admissions of guilt of what amounts to war crimes or at least violations of public standards and treaties.

The persecution and prosecution should not be focused on the whistleblower, Assange, but on the officials and our and other governments who have not acted ethically or legally, as revealed in these documents.

Somehow, leaving 50,000 troops in Iraq to work as “trainers and advisors” doesn’t smack of an end to the war in Iraq, and it doesn’t even stack up to the shameful 60-year garrisons we’ve left behind in Germany, Japan and South Korea.

While the returning “combat” troops deserve our thanks and appreciation, I hope there are no victory ticker tape parades in NYC or DC, or any crowing from the imperial White House for a so-called “end” to the war that’s gone on longer than the Civil War or WWII.

The criminals in the last White House who committed all these people, all these deaths and injuries, all these resources to a fantasy, remain at large. And 50,000 “trainers” left in Iraq does not end the war, while we pile on new mistakes in Afghanistan. I’m ashamed of our country’s former and current elected and civil leadership in Federal government, and their sick and vicious “defense” strategies…

I started my adult life wasting 3 years in the Army during the dumb Vietnam War, and the beat goes on to this minute.

Below is an except from my blog entry of June 23, and the 90,000 war documents leaked this week lend further support to the premise that our war in Afghanistan is chaotic and leading us nowhere, except to more debt and premature burials of young men and women. The billions we pay Pakistan has something to do with maintaining the security of their nuclear capability, as supposedly does some but not all of our military presence in Afghanistan. We need to hear the truth about this nuclear blackmail, if that’s what it is. We need a lot more, not less, transparency about our motives and strategies in the “Stans,” and I’m not at all sure the American people will like or support what we find, if ever we hear the truth.

June 23: Support for the war in Afghanistan is being held together with bailing wire, and is so fragile that a feature story by a freelancer in a magazine known as an anti-war rock’n-roll sheet could tip it over and bring down one of the country’s most respected military leaders. Who says Washington is not all about optics? The only rationale for staying in Afghanistan with the intensity we do is maintaining the optics of competence of the leadership that keeps us there. The Rolling Stone didn’t portray distorted optics, they spoke the truth. The truth that everyone except millions of our troops and citizens hadn’t yet seen. McChrystal had to go, to put those optics back together and restore the view through rose-colored glasses, a view of a strategic, well-planned and unified U.S. military mission in Afghanistan.

But the crummy magazine has done what the nation’s leading press and elected leadership can’t — they have exposed the chaos of our failed national strategy in Afghanistan.

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