Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified James Peter Zumwalt’s predecessor as ambassador to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau. The recent ambassador was Lewis Lukens. This version has been corrected.
Ten years ago, the National Security Archive, looking over an inventory of the papers of Kennedy administration Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, sent a “declassification request” to the Pentagon for a file involving nuclear missile policy in 1961. (This was when the administration found that the Soviets had only a handful of missiles and that there was, contrary to John F. Kennedy’s campaign attacks, no “missile gap.”)
A few months ago, the Archive got the file, apparently in its entirety. A “declassification request” is similar to a Freedom of Information Act request; it is used when asking for a specific file. Ten years is pretty much warp speed in the world of national security FOIA requests. So this was just wonderful.
Unfortunately, the key 16 pages were all whited out, still marked as classified. The Pentagon, as usual, justified the excisions on some serious-sounding grounds — “state of the art weapons technologies,” “weapons of mass destruction information,” “war plans, damage to foreign relations and national emergency preparedness.”
Then Archive senior analyst William Burr, going through the document, recalled having seen some of this information somewhere. So he went to a huge stack of FOIA releases that the organization had in its Digital National Security Archive, and sure enough, the document, with but a few deletions, had been released 24 years earlier — in 1990.
But Burr, who has a formidable memory, was pretty sure this was not where he first saw the document.
So he ran a quick search of the State Department’s Foreign Relations of the United States series, known as the FRUS, and found that the document, with virtually no redactions, had been published in 1996 — in the official State Department history.
Archive director Tom Blanton tells the Loop that he concluded two things from this experience: “The Pentagon can’t tell a real secret from a public secret,” and President Obama’s declassification push can’t override Pentagon secrecy claims.
Or maybe more people should check the FRUS.
The dust has settled from the 2014 midterms, and now political pundits can fully train their focus on the “will they, won’t they” game of presidential candidacies.
The buzzed-about candidates still play coy, but many are making clear that they have a time frame in mind for their great announcement of 2015.
Late last week, a bud of the Clintons, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), predicted that Hillary Clinton would “make a decision” in about 60 days. That would be mid-January, which is when she announced her bid in 2007.
The GOP’s 2012 runner-up, Rick Santorum, on Monday told Politico that he would make an announcement around June, as he did in 2011.
Among other Republicans, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said on “Meet the Press” Sunday that his decision will come in the “first half of 2015.” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has said “sometime next year.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) told the Hill last week that “we’ll figure out the right choice sometime early next year.” Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) has hinted at April for his big announcement. Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) reportedly told supporters he could announce before the end of the year.
Because the conversation is shifting from “if” to “when,” we decided to launch the Loop’s first “Stop Teasing and Start Running Contest.”
This one’s simple. Just guess which of these or the other oft-named politicians (Democrat or Republican) will be the first to make a White House run official.
Winners get one of our highly coveted Loop T-shirts.
Send entries — only one suggestion per person — to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to provide your name, profession, mailing address and T-shirt size (M, L or XL), in case you’re a winner.
You must include a phone number — home, work or cell — to be eligible. Entries need to be submitted by noon on Wednesday, Nov. 26.
The first 10 Loop fans who correctly pick the first hat into the ring will win! So get your guesses in early!
The Twitter account “State of Islam,” using the handle @Dawla_accountt, tweeted to its 1,226 followers Monday night: “#IslamicState is the SOLE SAVIOUR of millions of Sunni muslims against Iraqi-Syria Army butchers,” with an attachment to three propaganda photos claiming to show brutality against Sunnis.
About 16 hours later, a team at the State Department responded directly in its own tweet: “The middle photo is taken from Hungarian porn. Stop using fake photos to ‘trick’ people into supporting your lost cause.”
The U.S. government employees behind the “Think Again Turn Away” Twitter account spend their day communicating directly with Islamist militants, pushing back against their campaign to recruit fighters by spreading graphic images of brutalities they pin on the West.
Our colleague Anne Gearan described in September these new strategies by the State Department to “counter online militant propaganda with a U.S. messaging campaign.” “The countermessage is simple: These guys are lying to you, and if you go to Syria to fight Western oppression you’ll just end up killing innocent Muslims,” Gearan wrote.
By mid-morning Tuesday, the Think Again Turn Away account had posted a dozen or so tweets disputing various claims by Islamic State defenders.
Critics of the State Department’s Twitter account say that engaging with Islamist militants legitimizes them and helps distribute their message.
Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, defended the approach in a September news briefing: “The goal, obviously, of this is to . . . point out the fallacies of what they’re talking about, point out the inconsistencies, point out how this is contrary to Islam and really make very clear what this group is so people don’t join it.”
Will it work?
The Senate cleared by voice vote Tuesday night another five career diplomats for ambassadorships: Leslie Ann Bassett, now the deputy chief of mission in South Korea, for Paraguay; Marcia S. Bernicat, who was ambassador to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau, to Bangladesh; James Peter Zumwalt, deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs (and nephew of the late Navy Adm. Elmo Zumwalt), to replace Lewis Lukens for Senegal and Guinea-Bissauto; Craig B. Allen, deputy assistant secretary for Asia at the Commerce Department, to Brunei; and William V. Roebuck, deputy assistant secretary of state for Egypt and Maghreb affairs, for Bahrain.
The action leaves only 14 career folks awaiting confirmation. We’re hearing that a number of them, perhaps almost all, will get through before the lame duck utters its last quack.
Twitter: @KamenInTheLoop, @ColbyItkowitz.