Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Don't bogart that national security exclusive

Bear in mind, this isn't just any old exclusive: It's moved up to the No. 2 spot at this writing, and it's competing with another Lois Lerner tale, the latest on Rodham Hood's anti-media campaign, and the tasteful shark follow-up hedded "Bit his whole arm off." So let's have a look at how many layers of qualification there might be between the headline and -- oh, let's call it the "evidence":
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was apparently “high” with a small group of Afghan soldiers when they were picked up by nomads in 2009, according to a former CIA operative who was running a network of informants on the ground.
Good so far?
... "The call came in and what it said was they had just broken out the message that an American soldier along with two or three Afghan soldiers had been captured or taken by a group of nomads," Duane 'Dewey' Clarridge told Fox News, speaking for the first time publicly about the incident.
Well, never let your mom throw out your baseball cards. The Duane 'Dewey' Clarridge? Speaking publicly for the first time about the incident?
He added that the call said, “they were using the Pashto ‘diwana,’ which in this case meant high on hashish."
Let's break that down a little. "Ex-CIA operative: Bergdahl 'high' when captured" means something like "Ex-operative says call said 'they' used a word that -- 'in this case' -- means stoned." At a guess, that's a different "they" from the "they" who broke out the message, but
you don't get to be an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent by backing up to ask questions like "who did they say they said was stoned?" Let's get on to the ex-operative's other qualifications, though:

At the height of the Afghan war, Clarridge says he set up a network of informants to secure the release of a western journalist. Sometime after midnight, on June 30, 2009, the network came across surprising information about this other case.
Initially, Clarridge -- a 30-year veteran of the CIA who was involved in Iran-Contra -- said he had no idea who the soldier was until his informants reported that Army search teams were scouring the Afghan villages, calling out an unusual name.
"Involved in Iran-Contra" seems to be selling a distinguished career a bit short. Is this the same Duane Clarridge we meet in 1981 in Glenn Garvin's mordant and thorough "Everybody had his own gringo," preparing for talks with the ex-Sandinista Commander Zero?

He spoke no Spanish and had no Latin American experience; he was known within the Agency mainly for his work fighting the terrorist Red Brigades while he was the station chief in Rome. Now, however, he was the new head of the Latin American division of the CIA's operations directorate. ... He drove a bright white jeep with customized license plates that read CONTRA, and no mater how much his superiors screamed about it, Clarridge wouldn't give them up. (1992, p. 54).

He appears to have been kind of busy in the ensuing years, what with the mining of the harbors and all, so maybe he had time to pick up Pashto drug slang after Reagan left office. Anyway, back to our story:

"The patrols were moving around aggressively and were shouting ‘Bowe Bowe,’ and the guys down-range wanted to know, what was Bowe?” Clarridge explained. “It was at that point, we were told that the soldier was Bowe Bergdahl."
The unclassified information -- that Bergdahl was apparently high, and held by Afghan nomads, before being sold to the Haqqani terrorist network across the border in Pakistan -- was passed through the proper intelligence channels and pushed forward into Afghanistan.
I think I'm on record as a loyal friend of the passive voice, but still: Aren't there times when you just want to know who did all the telling and passing and pushing? The only thing better might be -- hey, maybe an existential:

Asked whether the revelations factored into the White House's decision to swap Bergdahl for the Taliban Five, there was no denial.
"There is an ongoing military justice inquiry into the circumstances of his disappearance, and I don't want to say anything about that ongoing investigation that may in any way interfere," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
Assuming we don't think today's revelations might have figured into last year's decision, what exactly did we expect a denial to mean anyway? Or did we expect ... a confession?!?!? ("Yes, we knew he was wasted, and we would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for you meddling kids!") Or -- and here's a question -- did we think about asking Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., whether he'd been privy to the revelations, and whether they factored into his demand that the Pentagon be made the lead agency in charge of securing Bergdahl's release, "with the specific aim of achieving a faster resolution than can be provided by the Department of State"?

Amid all this, everyone seems to have overlooked an entertaining New York Times piece from  2011 that includes this:

In July 2009, according to the Pentagon report, he set out to prove his worth to the Pentagon by directing his team to gather information in Pakistan’s tribal areas to help find a young American soldier who had been captured by Taliban militants. (The soldier, Pfc. Bowe R. Bergdahl, remains in Taliban hands.)
Four months later, the security firm that Mr. Clarridge was affiliated with, the American International Security Corporation, won a Pentagon contract ultimately worth about $6 million.
Odd, nothing in that one about what the Pashto word for "Don't bogart that national security exclusive" might be.

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