Summary: Today we have an analysis of the results of the Snowden affair by one who knows about such things. Franz Gayl (Major, USMC, retired) was a whistleblower, received the usual retaliation, and successfully fought back to recover his security clearance and job. He gives us grim tidings of our apathy and disinterest in the latest revelations about growing government power.
Today’s NSA scandal results in more bricks laid to build a New America
By Franz Gayl (Major, USMC, retired)
What is reported in the news is depressing, for sure.
As for unclassified whistleblowing, it is doubtful that government employees will risk going outside their chains of command in the future. The past presumptions of public reason — a discloser’s patriotic intentions, and his/her right to free speech– will all be trumped by fear.
Interestingly, some leaders in government have publicly morphed the description of a legitimate Whistleblower into a person who raises concerns through the chain of command, and only through the chain of command (e.g., this column by Michael Cohen at the Guardian). By inaccurately changing the definition of what a Whistleblower is, the government attempts to regain control over the problem of embarrassing unclassified disclosures. This is a clever trick that may over time lead to new agency-favoring and precedent setting court decisions, and thereby gut the WhistleBlower Protection Act of 1989 — and the Enhancement Act signed by the President last November.
Also, a host of new positions may soon come to be classified as national security sensitive. When this questionable expansion is combined with new executive branch regulations that reportedly will seek to identify and thereby preempt employees from constitutionally protected actions, the civil service will experience a deep chill. Agencies will have no problem dismissing “discontents” who disagree with nationally damaging policies, as they will have the authority to portray them as national security threats potentially capable of future acts of insubordination. Conscientious civil servants having professional misgivings concerning the legality or propriety of agency actions can be quickly discredited and dismissed long before their concerns achieve Congressional oversight or public debate.
In addition to cooperative co-worker informants, agencies have many tools to “confirm” threats, including but not limited to polygraphs and dreaded fitness for duty psychiatric exams.
In the years to come, this introduction of fear will likely transform the objective, patriotic, and constitution-abiding civil servant of our fine tradition into a kowtowing apparatchik of the party in power. Such sycophant survivor-types were common in 20th Century totalitarian regimes which we loathed as sworn enemies. This evolution constitutes an alarming and decidedly un-American corruption within our Republic, possibly a frantic and thoughtless reaction to stem a more general unraveling.
Noah Shachtman gave an excerpt from Gayl’s analysis in his column at Foreign Policy on 24 June.
About the author
Franz J. Gayl serves as a civilian science and technology advisor within Headquarters Marine Corps at the Pentagon. Previously he served for 22 years as an active duty infantry Marine, starting as enlisted and retiring with the rank of Major.
He earned an MS in Space Systems Operations from the Naval Postgraduate School and an MS in National Resource Strategy from the National Defense University. At NDU he was presented the “Ambassador’s Award” for my research and paper.
In 2006 he voluntarily deployed to Iraq. There he became aware of corruption within the Quantico support establishment that cost many under-equipped Marines their lives. His subsequent disclosures to the OSD, Congress and the press contributed to dramatic life-saving improvements in rapid acquisition
He also participated for 5 months in a DARPA internship, holds one patent, and is a graduate of the 2011 Singularity University Graduate Studies Program.
Articles about Gayl’s career as a whistleblower:
- “The Case of Marine Corps Whistleblower Franz Gayl“, The Government Accountability Project
- About the study he wrote that almost ended his career: “Refusal to send bomb-resistant trucks to Iraq led to marine deaths, study says“, New York Times, 17 February 2008
- “The Unquiet Life of Franz Gayl“, Washington Monthly, July/August 2011 — “A tech-savvy Marine who made too much noise, helped save the lives of countless troops in Iraq, and paid with his career.”
- “MRAP whistle-blower returning to Marines post“, USA Today, 17 November 2011
- “Whistleblower Franz Gayl gets his job back“, Jason Ukman, Washington Post, 17 November 2011 — “The Marine Corps has given a well-known whistleblower his security clearance and his job back.”
Other posts by Franz Gayl:
- Realism and Realpolitik – Setting the Conditions for America’s Survival in the 21st Century, 23 February 2012
- Preparing for the Evacuation of Israel, 6 March 2012
- What China Wants Us to Understand about China’s Rise, 12 March 2012
For More Information
Posts about surveillance by the government:
- Attention fellow sheep: let’s open our eyes and see the walls of our pen, 2009 — Five years ago these programs, and their growth, were easily visible. We just didn’t want to see.
- The NSA news might be a birthday for the New America!, 7 June 2013
- The US government spies on us because America is a democracy, 8 June 2013
- Our opinion leaders defend the government’s surveillance programs, 10 June 2013
- The government says “We do not have ‘direct’ access to your info …”, 11 June 2013
- Someone call Nixon’s plumbers. We need them again., 13 June 2013
- The Empire Strikes Back: The Demonization of Snowden Begins, 15 June 2013
- America’s courtiers rush to defend the government – from us, 22 June 2013
- Thoreau reminds us about one of the few tools we have to control the government, 24 June 2013
UnAmerican words in the New America:
5 thoughts on “Warning from a whistleblower about the results of not protecting whistleblowers”
Gayl’s statement here calls to mind one of the major thrusts of Thomas Szasz’s work::
“In addition to cooperative co-worker informants, agencies have many tools to “confirm” threats, including but not limited to polygraphs and dreaded fitness for duty psychiatric exams.”
Indeed, the feared “therapeutic state” as an all-encompassing psychiatric behemoth becomes more and more a reality. Yes, it’s all for your own good, don’t you know?
Say hello to American Lysenkoism. Now politicians can freely rewrite the laws of nature, and any government expert who dissents becomes a “national security risk” subject to extraordinary rendition. Great innovations loom: Peak Oil can be solved by perpetual motion machines and no scientist will dare stand up to deny it. The possibilities seem endless. America’s broken health care delivery system can be quickly repaired by strategic applications of feng shui and pyramid power. The military will launch a massive new weapons development program based on the lethal power of Wilhelm Riech’s orgone energy…
Franz Gayl makes a very important point in his 3rd paragraph regarding the legal definition of what a whistleblower is, and the attempts to redefine it to something more amenable to political control.
I believe this fundamental change will be driven stealthily very soon — and it fits well in the series of redefinitions carried out in the recent past: torture (see the abstruse definitions in the torture memos), terrorism (rubber-like definition applicable to almost everything), enemy (redefining Geneva conventions), weapon of mass destruction (hey, a pressure cooker filled with black powder is one!), due process (if the government does something in secret, then it is due process), etc.
Guest makes a good point. He should also include Atty. Gen. Eric Holder’s interesting redefintion of “due process of law” to include firing a Hellfire missile at an undicited unarraigned American citizen from a pilotless drone orbitng at 10,000 feet.
For reference, here’s what the Fifth Amendment of the constitution has to say about “due process of law”:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
These are all just further symptoms of a system in terminal collapse.
I have often mentioned here the issue of cognitive dissonance as applied to individuals, but what is worse is collective CD. Within a group positive and negative feedback mechanisms will magnify it.
Group think is a well known term, but most people don’t realise the most dangerous aspects of it, ie things like groups will take on higher risk than an individual, because of disassociated responsibility.
When the internal model of reality of a group moves further and further away from reality and the failures of its decision making become ever greater, then the stronger it will work to protect that ‘inner reality’.
If the group has access to the power of force (ie military, ‘national security’, etc groups) then naturally they will use that force to protect their emotional equilibrium.
In Stafford Beer’s work (most highly recommended to study) he called this the ‘disconnected head’; syndrome. The most extreme individual example of this is congenital analgesia, where a person cannot feel pain. Without this essential feedback mechanism most people suffering this die very young.
Very hierarchical systems (the military is a prime example) are extremely prone to this.
Often (as per the US) as the mismatch between the ‘inner reality’ of the elite (and hence the decisions made by them) and reality become ever more dysfunctional, then the temptation to use force to both eliminate any signals that contradict this ‘inner reality’ and also isolate themselves from the costs becomes irresistible. Hence a society becomes ever more ‘militarised’.
This is the final stage of course, because more and more of the groups resources have to be expended in closing down these signals, it accentuates the problems that the ‘reality dysfunction’ is creating/ignoring/etc.
At a societal level, depending on the fundamental issues and the success/failure of this effort to ignore reality, then two things tend to happen:
One, a hardening of the intellectual arteries. The ‘party line’ becomes dominant (no matter how absurd) throughout the society. Simply put at an individual level you know that a ‘big boot’ will come down heavily on your head if you disagree.
Two, the elite becomes ever more capricious. In other words, if they think they have succeeded in eliminating all contradictions to their ‘inner reality’, then they (humans being quite creative this way) will create new ‘inner realities’, feeling confident that these will be accepted (that big boot again). Hence the famous neo-con comment “this is an empire and it creates its own reality….”.
The book 1984 documents this process very accurately. The current Syrian situation is a textbook case.
The end result is that the ‘reality dysfunction’ accelerates….. This is the terminal stage.
Not all societies get to this final stage. Quite often they simply lack the resources (and/or there is enough opposition) to create a one ‘reality’ system.
The US, like the USSR before it, has been unlucky enough to reach this final stage, not in the least because it has had the wealth to waste to survive ignoring reality for awhile.
There are a whole host of reasons for this, but some key ones set the stage that has enabled it to get this far:
The first was the clearing out of opposing ideologies in the mechanisms of the state and institutions during (and after) the Macarthy years. This created an ideological monoculture, which as we all know are far more vulnerable to disease (Stalin did the same, albeit in a more ruthless way, hence dooming it).
The US dollar being the reserve currency has meant that the financial price (to the elites at least) of all the poor decisions (based on the ‘inner reality’, or collective fantasy world, being completely out of whack with reality itself) has been insignificant.
The massive military/national security apparatus. Organisations like these (being extreme ideological monocultures) are extremely prone to suffering ‘reality dysfunctions’. It would be fair to argue that any relationship between reality and the ‘inner reality’ of the US military/NS sub-culture has been broken since WW2 (some would argue during WW2 itself), with a very few exceptions.
Again the sheer wealth of the US has worked against it, since it has been able to afford the price of all the mistakes and costs of this sub-culture (just).
Note that this sub-culture becomes ever more the mainstream as you move into the final stages, as the other elites become ever more dependent on it to stop any opposition to their ‘inner reality’ (and attempt to isolate themselves for the costs). In the US you can see this as the ever greater spying, monitoring, punishment, militarisation of the police, et al.
This of course facilitates ‘cost transfer’, where (again in the final stages) the cost of maintaining this ‘inner reality’ is transferred downwards (that big boot again).
But the gap between reality and this ‘inner fantasy’ becomes ever greater and the costs of maintaining it also become ever greater, eventually you get to the point where it becomes unsustainable. Then there is a correction. Note that this correction may be the death of the system if it is unable to correct itself.
Now you might ask that why don’t they just change their minds, but sadly humans (especially if they have sociopathic tendencies) tend to be very poor at that unless there is some personal pain involved. Taking the example of congenital analgesia again. The head feels nothing, no pain at all. The body is dying (broken leg, gangrene setting in, riddled with disease, et al) but it has no affect on the head’s decisions … well until the heart stops….
Such is the fate of non adaptable systems, in evolutionary terms it is called extinction.