Whistle-blowing sounds like a good idea!

MONDAY, MAY 13, 2013

Until you see Gregory Hicks do it: Yesterday, David Brooks challenged an emerging narrative concerning the CIA’s purity.

We want to take a similar stance concerning Gregory Hicks.

We don’t so this to criticize Hicks, although some of his testimony at last Wednesday's hearing struck us as very shaky. We do it to counter a growing narrative, in which people are failing to say how shaky his effort was.

Within an emerging narrative, Hicks is being sanctified as the good pure whistle-blower. The sanctification started with the peculiar self-portrait offered by Hicks as he introduced himself to the House committee:
HICKS (5/8/13): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Ranking Member. Thank you, members of the committee.

I am a career public servant. Until the aftermath of Benghazi I loved every day of my job. In my 21 years of government service prior to Tripoli I earned a reputation for being an innovative policymaker who got the job done. I was promoted quickly and received numerous awards. People who worked for me rated my leadership and management skills highly.

I have two master's degrees from the University of Michigan in applied economics and modern Near Eastern and North African studies. I have served my country extensively in the Mideast. Besides Libya, I served in Afghanistan, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria and Gambia. I speak fluent Arabic.

In Bahrain, my Shia opposition contacts gave me advanced warning of impending attacks on our embassy and anti-government, anti-American demonstrations, allowing us to prepare and avoid injuries to staff. I learned that knowledge of local conditions and strong connections with the local population are as important as the strength and height of walls.

One reason I am here is because I have pledged to the foreign service as part of my campaign to the state (ph) vice president of the American Foreign Service Association that none of us should ever again experience what we went through in Tripoli and Benghazi on 9/11/2012.

After I arrived in Tripoli as deputy chief of mission on July 31st, 2012, I fast became known as the ambassador's bulldog because of my decisive management style. In the days immediately after the Benghazi attack, the president and secretary of state praised my performance over the telephone. President Obama wrote Libyan President Magariaf expressing confidence in my abilities. Deputy Secretary Burns and General Ham told me how much they appreciated how I handled the night of the assault and its aftermath.

I received written notes of commendation from Undersecretary Wendy Sherman and from Executive Secretary Stephen Mull. Incoming charge Larry Pope told me personally that my performance was near heroic.

In February 1991, I swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. I'm here today to honor that oath.

I look forward to answering your questions fully and truthfully. Thank you very much.
He fast became known as the ambassador's bulldog because of his decisive management style? We’ll have to say that self-introduction struck us as a bit strange. But so did several other parts of Hicks’ testimony, especially his repeated snide remarks concerning Ambassador Rice.

Hicks’ repeated snide remarks made us wonder if he might have some sort of Fox-style politics. Beyond that, some of those remarks just didn’t seem very smart.

In this earlier post, we recorded a snide, absurd exchange about Rice with Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC). Consider a later exchange with Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC).

McHenry cited a rather obvious defense of Rice which was offered long ago by Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy. When Rice appeared on those now-famous Sunday shows, “she had information at that point from the intelligence community, and that is same information I had,” Kennedy said. “I would have made exactly the same points. Clearly, we know more today. But we knew what we knew when we knew it.”

This is an obvious defense of Rice’s performance. When she appeared on those shows, she was working from information supplied by the intelligence community. She was presenting her government’s official view of the case as it stood at that moment.

Just how sharp is Gregory Hicks? Is it possible that Hicks has some sort of politics? In this absurd exchange with McHenry, Hicks said Rice should have taken a different approach:
MCHENRY (5/8/13): Let me actually make that a question, if you will. Ambassador Rice recited a set of facts. A month later, they defended, the State Department defends that. You're a career State Department official. Would you have said the things that Ambassador Rice said?

HICKS: Not after hearing what President Magarief said, especially considering the fact that he had gone to Libya—to Benghazi—himself, at great personal and political risk. And for him to appear on world television and say this was a planned attack is—by, by terrorists—is phenomenal. I was jumping up and down when he said that. It was a gift for us from a policy perspective, from my perspective, sitting in Tripoli.

MCHENRY: And did that occur before September 16?

HICKS: He said that on the talk, same talk shows with—with Ambassador Rice.

UNKNOWN SPEAKER: On Face the Nation.

MCHENRY: And, and did you report that? Was there knowledge that he was going to say that?

HICKS: No, there was not.
Hicks displays extremely strange judgment in this exchange. In his view, Rice should have abandoned her official briefing when she appeared on those Sunday programs. When she heard Magariaf making some rather dramatic claims, she should have agreed with those claims, even though that wasn’t the state of U.S. intelligence.

For the record, Magariaf made a set of sweeping claims on Face the Nation that day. He said fifty people were under arrest, some of them from Mali and Algeria. He said the attackers had deliberately chosen September 11 as the date for their attack.

“This leaves us with no doubt that this was preplanned, predetermined,” Maragriaf said. “Definitely it was planned by foreigners, by people who entered the country a few months ago, and they were planning this criminal act since their arrival.”

Was the attack preplanned for two months? Confronted with that claim by Bob Schieffer, Rice said the United States had no such information. According to Hicks, she should have thrown her briefing away and simply agreed with what Magariaf said.

That is a very strange thing to say, though Republican loony-tunes have increasingly been saying it. How good is Gregory Hicks’ judgment? Does he have politics?

(As far as we know, Magariaf's claims have never been established as accurate.)

Hicks is being treated as a whistle-blower. There’s nothing obviously wrong with that, but whistle-blowing has its limitations. As with fact-checking, so too here:

Whistle-blowing sounds like a good idea until you see people do it! Sometimes, whistle-blowers simply don’t have good judgment.

We think Hicks showed very strange judgment at various points in his testimony. To us, his snide tone toward Rice was especially striking.

Does Gregory Hicks have politics? Does he have good judgment? On both counts, we’ll have to say this:

Inquiring minds ought to ask. Very few people will.


  1. Oh Bob, what a preposterous waste of time.

    Let's make it simple, shall we? Does history tell us that governments -- Repub, Dem, Latvian, Martian -- tell the truth? Do elected officials tell the public the truth? Do political appointees? Does this Mr. Hicks? What about Susan Rice?

    Whether or not, in this particular instance, the facts in dispute (or, rather, the dispute about the claims of the facts) represent conscious deception on the part of the Obama administration (the same administration, for example, that preposterously and claims that drones aren't killing civilians), do you seriously believe that ANYTHING this or any other administration says can be believed? Or that the Obama administration in this one instance was sufficiently truthful, sincere and forthcoming, that such truthfulness is worth defending? As an apologist for American foreign policy, how truthful is Susan Rice generally?

    In other words, it comes down to what your blog always comes down to; to wit, despite the lies told about him by the press, was Al Gore a liar, if on matters far more crucial than Love Story or Love Canal?

    Do you even care what the answer is, as long as the national depraved press corps gives you an opportunity to discuss the irrelevant and the absurd?

    Or do you lack that inquiring mind you wish on others?

    1. You know Bob has hit a nerve when the critics of him don't even attempt to address the substance of his post. Like, in what fucking world does it make sense for Hicks to suggest Rice should just trash her talking points prepared by our own intelligence agencies based on her hearing some wild claims made by a not disinterested party just minutes before?

    2. MM, it's been a long while since Bob was capable of hitting any nerves. But by all means, continue with this nonsensical debate, and ignore all issues of substance.

      That's always been the MO of this blog, and it does seem to please a few people.

    3. I guess it all depends on how one defines "substance". To me, bob's point is quite substantive given that Hick's testimony has been dominating the news since Wednesday and was Topic 1 on all the Sunday shows. And as usual Bob is practically the only one I've seen or read who is able to cut through all the BS Issa and his crew of vandals are floating.

    4. Only if you are an extreme Benghazi junkie has Hicks' testimony been "dominating the news."

      Even on the day it was given, that small segment of America who paid any attention at all simply rolled their eyes in boredom and quickly forgot who Hicks even is.

      Realize how quickly even the Mittster dropped this whole thing after his Debate No. 2 faceplant.

    5. The information that Hicks voted for Obama has been out for some time, yet TDH professes ignorance.

    6. Anon "waste of time":

      You made TDH's point at the same time you thought you were debunking it. The point is that there is no news in all this. Whatever truth-bending went on in the talking points, you cannot identify any specific deception that would be any different from any such matter. Rice was sticking to the talking points, with one difference being that she did expressly acknowledge to Bob Schieffer that day that al Qaeda could be involved to some extent in the attack. OK, so you might prefer to shift your focus to the talking points themselves, but these talking points were like any other early talking points on a matter like that.

  2. @Anon 12:09,

    I think you are right to be skeptical of governments. In that same spirit of skepticism, I will assume that your claim that we are looking at "conscious deception on the part of the Obama administration" is pure bullsh*t until you present some evidence to back it up.

    1. You can assume anything you want, cacambo, about a claim I didn't make, but I needn't answer for your fantasy.

      What does the qualifier "Whether or not" mean to you? Or didn't you bother to actually read the post before replying?

    2. You are very skillful at the old duck-and-weave, aren't you? This is not a legitimate response to cacambo's challenge.

  3. Are we forgetting that the entire raise d'être of diplomatic language is to tone down the emotional content of rhetoric?

    It is the JOB of diplomats to speak in nuanced language.

    If you want blunt, appoint John Bolton as SecState.

    As Don Corleone said, "Never let your enemies know what you're thinking."

    1. We haven't even gotten to the fact that the administration was in damage-control mode because of the video that was, in fact, prompting demonstrations in other cities.

  4. These familiar Rebup talking points pop up whenever scandal mode is on full Court Press. We are not after Obama, we want accountability from "all Governments" just
    Like Billl O'Reilly. We VOTED with you (yeah right) until that one terrible day when everything changed.
    One thing is true: Hick's hilariously Walter Mittian introduction has been denied the average news consumer and it really isn't fair. This's bulldog's delusions of greatness
    are funnier than anything on one of my favorite Telivison programs that I ignore the phone during . Great post.

  5. What's interesting here is that the State Dept did push back against the CIA's assessment of what happened at the consulate. They pushed back to the tune of 12 revisions.

    However, the assessment that stayed intact was the one most beneficial to ALL involved. The assessment that essentially says, as far as we know...it seems to have been a collection of professional and local ne'er-do-wells either protesting a video, or taking advantage of the protesting of it.

    Hick is disdainful of this based upon info he knows (even by his own connections) that the CIA knew, and the highly significant remarks made by Libya's chief of state.

    We know the Ambassador asked for more protection, before the attacks. We know Hicks tangled with Washington in requesting a military intervention during the assaults.

    I'm willing to give nod to all the profundities about the situation being complex in the sense that no party involved is uncorrupted by self-interest. That hindsight is 20/20. That the WH and other agencies were walking the thin tightrope of protecting classified information.

    However, I see no reason to entertain the personal implication that Hicks might have "Fox-like politics" because he shows some disgust and irreverence for Hillary Clinton's right-hand man, Susan Rice.

    Hicks has not been unclear about he feels about the response of the State Dept, or why. The man's personal politics would not necessarily be a determinate of THAT.

    1. OK, so he's one of those gung-ho Douglas MacArthur types who truly believes he's qualified to make up US policy on the spot, and that he'd have saved those 4 people except for the interference of the REMF's in D.C. Does that make his personal opinions on Clinton and Rice any less relevant insofar as they seem to color his testimony?

      Yeah, it's not just Fox people who hate Hillary. But there are a lot of them, and this is exactly the kind of thing they do. Walks like a duck, quacks like a duck.

    2. You are on the money there, my friend.

      Whether you are a career State Dept official turned critic over the handling of a disastrous consulate attack, or the parent of one of the casualties, hating this Secretary of State makes you suspect regardless of the circumstances, and lumps you in with some particular pariahs.

    3. Of course, Bob does not imply Hicks is suspect or lump him in with anyone. He simply uses his hilarious self introduction to take the bulldog to the pound. Is there a self assessment here more self benifical than Hicks's is to Hicks? Given the recent history of these things (check out what Powell's intellegence people at State had to say about Iraq) , it's THIS incident that would turn Hicks on the whole rotten, damned game? Tell us another, MC.

  6. Not necessarily.

  7. Whistle-blowing sounds like a good idea--until it undermines TDH's preferred narrative. Then TDH has to speculate without evidence about the whistle-blower's motives. Hilariously, Susan Rice's statements must always always always be considered without any regard for her motives.

    There was a time when TDH took journos to task for making routine bios (of Gore) look "peculiar." Well, those days are long past...

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  11. hicks' self introduction is laughably egomaniacal. he should have started referring to himself in the 3rd person, "I, Deputy Chief of Mission Gregory Hicks, have been a bulldog since the day etc. etc." you know, Oliver North style. then the press and republicans could adulate him properly.