Thursday, 27 April 2006

DeepThroat II exposed too early

Privilege acquired and opportunity squandered
The Presidency of the United States of America confers on the person occupying that office great privilege and opportunity.
Privilege in that the electioneering that canvasses a population of just about 300 million people confers a de facto leader of the free world title that appeals to the possible aspirations of the global populace of just over 6 billion people.
Opportunity comes from realising that that position of leadership can be used with such deftness, diplomacy, vision and wisdom to bring to fruition aspirations that affect humankind for the better even if those goals are pursuant of national interests.
There are only a handful of presidents that that used but privilege and opportunity in that context – Abraham Lincoln as he fought to the Union and the Abolition of Slavery; Franklin D. Roosevelt as he fought to defend America and joined the Allies against Nazism; Dwight Eisenhower as he battled Communism with the sense of experience from the World War II and Ronald Reagan as his time saw the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe.
These presidents were not faultless in other policies and ideas, but history serves them well in terms what they did beyond the confines of fortress America.
Absolute Power can corrupt absolutely
On the other hand, this privilege and opportunity also allows for the exercise of executive power that sometimes appears to undermine the whole concept of transparency in democratic governance.
One such example was Watergate where the Presidency having been involved in illegal activities to undermine anti-war political opposition and the Democratic Party.
A member of the FBI known as DeepThroat fed the press with details of this reckless abuse of power and the lengths to which the Presidency went to conceal their illegal activities, some of which was to use state secrets and executive privilege to thwart efforts to get to the truth.
This lead to the resignation of President Nixon, however, we did not get to confirm who DeepThroat was till May 2005 that identity was kept secret despite all speculation for just about 30 years.
The dilemma of right or wrong
Obviously, that revelation lead different comments, some glad that service was done for democracy by exposing corruption in the Presidency and others who were concerned about the way in which the highest office in the land was undermined by what was seemingly unpatriotic.
These views can leave one in a quandary, but the issues are clear, if laws are being broken, they should be exposed and dealt with regardless of who is involved in breaking the law.
Basically, nobody should or must be above the law, it may well be that those in office take due consideration of the consequences of their actions as they contemplate the extra-judicial use of their privileges.
Also, whilst, there are clearly stated rules which may lead to dismissal if certain personnel in service of the nation make unauthorised contacts with the press; that matter of consequence also informs the fact that there are no objective and independent means of addressing abuse in the system.
Hence, personnel do have to break the rules to expose greater abuses of the law and executive power that the system would self-servingly conceal from scrutiny and the exercise of justice.
A scapegoat of the truth
It is then unfortunate that a long-serving member of the CIA was dismissed just six days before retirement for unauthorised contacts with the press; some recent leaks have involved revealing that the CIA had operated illegal prisons in Eastern Europe or that the Presidency had approved the surveillance of American citizens without allowing for clearly delineated due process of checks and oversight of the legislature and judiciary.
The Presidency railed about the fact that this was the most highly classified activity of national Security and that it was utterly unpatriotic to give up information that could undermine the War Against Terrorism and give terrorists the advantage that would have been lost to surprise.
That case is probably arguable that the Commander-in-Chief being the President does have untrammelled powers to protect the American People; however, it does not confer the right to ignore the need to subject all decisions to oversight even if the activity is of a highly-classified nature.
No way else to state the truth
In these matters, the only way to expose this abuse of executive office would have been to have the press hounds on the matter to scent out the facts and get the culprits.
Having subjected everyone of authority to a polygraph test; one cannot deign to imagine what questions were asked, but seeing what Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib offers; it would be remiss not to bring some of those interrogation techniques short of torture to bear on the hapless CIA staffers to nail their quarry.
Whistle-blowers are an endangered species as people in power create a climate of fear and tension that allows for illegal or even criminal activity to go unopposed and unpunished, searing the consciences of observers who know that things are wrong but they cannot do anything about it.
For services to democracy to curb the abuse of presidential power and the culture of secrecy that perpetuates the desire to engage in criminal activity under the guise of National Security - Mary O'Neil McCarthy, I salute you.

No comments: