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.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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.