Thursday, February 16, 2017

Sure, Investigate Gen. Flynn, But Also ...

Last week, I wrote what apparently was a prescient column about the fact that the "swamp" in DC included not only Congress and the Federal Government as a whole, but specifically the tens of thousands of Federal employees working there.  Those employees overwhelmingly voted for Hillary Clinton (we know that because of DC's voting record), so that they innately dislike the man at the top for whom they work.

That dislike gets particularly pernicious at the upper levels of agencies, where more of the staff live in the suburbs, and policy is directly implemented and there are decisions that are significant enough to affect you and me.

I am well aware of how that all plays out.  Several years back I was hired as the Senior VP of Operations for a government contracting firm.  My three direct reports, who had each been there before I was hired, were clearly resentful of having a layer of management and oversight placed between them and the owners of the company.

I was hired to make some change and bring a more industry-standard management process to the company's operations.  That did not go over well with the three of them, who wanted to do things the way they always had, and particularly were not interested in participating in developing new business, which is one of the things I was brought in to help them do.

So at every step of the way, I was stonewalled and ignored, when even one of them could have risen in the company by signing on to what the new owners wanted.  Even now, as I think of my frustrating year there, I can see the parallels that match to this situation, except it's a lot bigger, and the person being subverted is the leader of the free world.  I sympathize.

All those swamp denizens who are doing as little as possible to help, and as much as possible to thwart President Trump, well, those are bad enough.  When the thwarting is being done by our intelligence community mid-level leadership, it is pretty sad.

So we have a situation where Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, until recently the National Security Advisor to the president, was forced to resign after having had a conversation with the Russian ambassador prior to his appointment.  It may or may not have involved the sanctions against Russia instituted by Barack Obama as punishment for their alleged attempt to interfere with our elections.

Now, of course, we have Democrats gleefully biting at the still-alive Gen. Flynn's corpse, because it constitutes an opportunity to subvert President Trump (when they should be figuring out how to work together).  They are calling for an "investigation into Gen. Flynn", a special prosecutor, whatever.

And you know what?  I say "Go ahead!".  And if I'm the president, I say that I want a full investigation, that includes what Gen. Flynn may have said -- and how it came to be known to the public.  You see, the process was that at some point after the conversation with the Russian ambassador, the nature of the call was leaked to the Washington Post by the people in the intelligence community who had been wiretapping the ambassador.

So while we are investigating the whole matter, let's make sure that the actual criminal acts are investigated and prosecuted.  That may include whatever Gen. Flynn said (he was a private citizen at the time), but also the fact that the disclosure of what was said by Gen. Flynn to the ambassador was utterly illegal!  Because he was a private citizen at the time, his words were covered by Federal wiretapping law that forbids such disclosure without a court order prior to the wiretap, of which there was of course none.

Yet someone -- and it appears multiple "someones" -- from the intelligence community leaked the information to the Post, who blithely published it with press impunity.  That information was highly classified, since it involved sensitive communications and, you know, the fact that we were successfully wiretapping the Russian ambassador in the first place.  So in that investigation, we are talking about the actual leaking of classified information inside the USA.

However bad or illegal Gen. Flynn's actions were, which we don't know (and that's why there should be an investigation of it), we know that there was a criminal leak of classified information by people inside the CIA.  We know that.  A crime was committed.

So yes, I believe that this should be investigated and, like any investigation, it should be taken where the evidence leads.  And as soon as they track backwards from the Post to how the information got from the phone call to the newspaper and the public, the nature of the criminal act will need to point to the actual criminal actor.  If they're in government, the need to be fired and prosecuted, and their co-conspirators also sacked.

The above may seem like the sacrifice of a decorated general officer, but no punishment from the investigation will be beyond what any action on his part warrants.  What is necessary are two things.  First, those who took it upon themselves to attack the president by illegally releasing classified information are punished, and given the boot from the Agency.

More important, the Federal Government and every senior employee needs to get on board the train, whether they like it or not.  Their orders are coming from a very different place right now, and if they don't like the orders, they need to find another job.

America did not elect them.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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