A Picture of Dorian Government

Whenever a character in a movie utters the words "I have a bad feeling about this," the audience can rest assured that within moments an event will take place that will fully and decisively confirm that said character's uneasiness was justified. Even other characters who were previously dismissive of the first character's fears will quickly come to see that they were wrong and will rally to the side of the one who was right.

In real life, however, things are seldom that cut-and-dried. For example, almost everyone holds negative opinions about some aspects of government, be they mere complaints ("Politicians are a bunch of do-nothing blowhards") or genuine fears ("The government is spying on us"). Most people can even recount a news story or two that confirm one or more of their negative opinions.

Rarely, though, does a story come along that clearly and unquestionably validates practically every negative opinion one could hold about government. This report from Cybercast News Service is just such a story.

It's all here: lying, deception, theft, bribery, self-serving bureaucracy, laziness, incompetence, bureaucratic infighting, vindictive punishment of a whistleblower, and manipulation of data to produce outcomes desired by superiors. A more concise yet thorough indictment of the entire workings of government would be difficult to find.

The story says that one William L. Cruse, a former intelligence analyst (1995–2001) with the Army's National Ground Intelligence Center, is to be interviewed in connection with the Defense Department's investigation of corruption and bribery within its ranks, an investigation which has already sent California Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham to prison for his role in the scandal. Most of the story, in fact, consists of Cruse's allegations about NGIC practices. However, given the lengths to which the government went to hound Cruse out of a job – he "now works in the plumbing department of a local Lowe's hardware store" after being fired from the NGIC – it seems fair to assume that Cruse is probably telling the truth. As Cruse himself put it, "They will forgive you for being wrong, but they will never forgive you for being right." (All quotations in this column are taken from the above-linked story unless otherwise noted.)

What, pray tell, could Cruse know that the government would go to the trouble of having him examined by a professor of psychiatric medicine and declared to have a "personality disorder" – a diagnosis that, despite its being "strongly contested by . . . a clinical psychologist," paved the way for a revocation of Cruse's security clearance and ultimately his firing?

The answer is: reams of damning evidence.

First, Cruse found that analysts at the NGIC were "deliberately" altering intelligence "to exaggerate certain threats." This was done for two reasons: (1) "to justify increased funding for specific weapons systems the U.S. Army wanted" and (2) "to impress their bosses by producing u2018volume' and pressure from superiors to arrive at a pre-ordained conclusion."

As to reason one, Cruse alleges that "an officer . . . told Cruse he had been assigned to alter the data." Cruse refused and "brought the matter to the attention of senior NGIC officials," whereupon he "was told the changes were necessary to justify increased funding for specific weapons systems the U.S. Army wanted." Furthermore,

Cruse said superiors in the U.S. Army pressured him to go along in order to help continue funding and justify the billion-dollar Comanche helicopter project and Crusader mobile artillery weapons systems.

"Don't you want the Army to have Comanche?" Cruse said his superiors asked him. "My job is to tell the truth," Cruse reportedly replied, to which he said he was told, "Your job is to do what you're told. Your job is to support the Army's position."

Cruse, however, had determined that the Comanche, which "were designed for operations against former Soviet and Warsaw Pact countries," were unnecessary given "deteriorating radar and ground force capability" in those countries. This fazed the Army not one bit. After all, they weren't spending their own money! Why should they care if they were ripping off taxpayers for their precious toys? Who wouldn't buy, or at least be tempted to buy, something he wanted but didn't need if he knew someone else was going to pick up the tab?

Not only was the Army not fazed at all by Cruse's assessment; they were thoroughly outraged by his independent spirit and devotion to the truth. Cruse said, "When I refused to go along with this fraud, I was publicly reprimanded and accused of being disloyal to my team, the NGIC, and to the Army." Note that he wasn't accused of being disloyal to his country or its genuine defense needs. The government could easily have lived with that. What they could not live with was a traitor to the bureaucracy. So much for the notion that the government consists of big-hearted "public servants"!

Of course, falsifying intelligence merely to engage in some petty larceny (if one can call bilking taxpayers for $39 billion, the price tag of the Comanche program, "petty") is bad enough, but it's nothing compared to doing the same thing to impress the boss, especially when, as in the case of the Iraq war, giving the boss what he wants means leading the country down the primrose path into a campaign of murder and destruction against a foreign people who have done us no harm and had no capability to do us any harm.

Yes, yes, I know various government investigations have found that intelligence was not being manipulated to please the president; but as Matthew Yglesias wrote,

When the President of the United States orders a review of intelligence regarding a country and then, while that process is underway, proceeds to have himself, his subordinates in the administration, and his administration's allies in the press repeatedly make a public case for invading that country, that is political pressure on the intelligence analysts all by itself. You don't need to call up John Doe in Langley and say, "look, the president really thinks it's important that we invade Iraq, so analyses that tend to support his view will be rewarded, whereas those that would tend to embarass [sic] him will not." The CIA isn't populated by idiots.

Besides, given what we know from Cruse's testimony and from previous government investigations, it's next to impossible to take any government investigation too seriously.

At any rate, Cruse alleges that other analysts were recycling old intelligence reports, in whole or in part, in order "to arrive at a pre-ordained conclusion." One analyst, for example, plagiarized "the master's thesis of a Russian colonel." Another "in 1999 copied a . . . report from 15 years earlier and presented it as his own up to date intelligence analysis. The reference to u2018Soviet Union' in the present tense was a dead giveaway." (Some of this can be attributed to pure laziness, giving new life to the old joke "Why don't government workers look out the window all morning? Because then they would have nothing to do in the afternoon.") Furthermore, entire "[m]ethodologies were also being manipulated in order to achieve the desired outcome, Cruse said. u2018Instead of research driving the outcome, here we had the desired ends justifying the means.'"

The ramifications of intelligence manipulation are enormous. Superiors can be led to exaggerate greatly some threats, as we have seen in the case of Iraq. This same exaggeration, in turn, can cause them to ignore genuine threats. "While superiors focused on Russia and the Korean Peninsula, they downplayed the threat of international terrorism until 9/11, Cruse said."

To his credit (and, again, assuming his allegations are true), Cruse tried to fight the power and expose what was going on at the NGIC. His complaints, however, fell on ears that were either deaf or connected to brains wired for self-preservation at all costs.

Both the NGIC commander and the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command inspector general "declined to get involved" in rooting out the problems.

"Cruse . . . and other employees had also complained that illegal wiretapping and surveillance were being used to retaliate against employees." Naturally, the Army said no such thing had taken place. The "FBI did find an illegal wiretap on the fourth floor of NGIC . . . but declined to investigate further."

That was just the beginning. "Once a top-rated intelligence analyst, Cruse's performance evaluation plummeted to the lowest possible ranking in 2000. Cruse said the alleged retaliation included petty complaints, trumped up charges and finally, a coerced mental health examination." That examination, as we have seen, ultimately resulted in Cruse's firing from the NGIC.

It's not a pretty story all the way around, and in fact it's quite unsettling. "Civilians would have a u2018hard time sleeping at night' if they knew the extent of such intelligence fraud, says Cruse," and it's hard to argue with him.

Unfortunately, it is a prime example of how government functions day in and day out. Little or no concern for the taxpayers these "public servants" supposedly serve is in evidence. Neither the citizens' pocketbooks nor their safety are of any real importance to the bureaucracy. What matters to them is amassing as much money and power as they can, always at the expense of the poor civilians, without regard to whether that money and power are being used for necessary or good purposes. Whatever means are needed to advance the bureaucracy's agenda will be employed: lying, deception, manipulation of intelligence, you name it. In addition, whatever it takes to keep the truth from leaking out to the public will be done: accusing truth-tellers of disloyalty, wiretapping them, fabricating charges and evidence against them, forcing them to be declared mentally unfit, and sending them to the unemployment office. The same, and worse, will befall both government employees and private citizens who dare to stand up to Leviathan.

Therefore, if you've ever had a bad feeling about government, this story ought to serve as proof positive that your fear was not misplaced. Furthermore, if you've ever had a good feeling about government, whether in regard to its social programs or its military and intelligence agencies, it ought to bury such feelings deeper than the Mariana Trench.

March 20, 2006