Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 24, 2010

Where is candor?

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on May 24, 2010

Today’s post was written by Daniel W. O’Connor



Pronunciation: \kan-der, –,dor\

Function: noun

Etymology: French & Latin; French candeur, from Latin candor, from candere — more at candid

Date: 14th century

1 a : whiteness, brilliance b obsolete : unstained purity
2 : freedom from prejudice or malice : fairness
3 archaic : kindliness
4 : unreserved, honest, or sincere expression : forthrightness


The Gulf BP oil disaster, the Arizona immigration law, the Wall Street Bail outs, intelligence collection, homeland security.  Where has the ability to be candid gone?

Based on the above definition of candor, I believe our leaders have lost the ability to be candid.   Some readers may find this naïve or idealistic, but the fundamental essence of protecting our Nation is the ability to be candid with our citizenry.

George Washington was very clear about this: “I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.”

As the days march by we’re finding out that the oil spill in the Gulf is being vastly under reported.  News reports indicate the oil dumped into the Gulf is already the equivalent of five Exxon Valdez spills…five of them.  Some other reports are alluding to possible collusion amongst news agencies to ensure this does not become “Obama’s Katrina.”  I don’t think we are getting the full story yet about the spill.

In another story, the President of Mexico expressed his displeasure with the recent Immigration law passed in Arizona.   Rather odd that a president from another country is upset with a state law. Even odder that he’s given the opportunity to address Congress and lecture them on laws and such. Perhaps it’s the billions of cash infused into his country he’s concerned about.

And the failed Times Square Bomber happened to be a recently radicalized Muslim.  Just like the Army Major at Fort Hood and the failed Christmas Underwear bomber.   And yet, that theme is downplayed by leadership, as if to say it is not significant.

So, if Thomas Paine words are correct and “These are the times that try men’s souls,” then perhaps its time to understand that now more than ever, candor and our leaders’ requirement for it is upon us again.

Read past postings by Mssrs. Cumming, Palin, Chubb, and Bellavita —  all touch on the same theme:  now is not the time for rhetoric and politics, but hard answers and bold leadership.   We must be candid in our assessments and stop trying to evade our fate.   Why did our DNI resign?  Was it because of political expedience or institutional ineptness? Why can’t we simply state the obvious: we have an illegal immigration problem and radicalized Islamicists wish us harm?

Why can’t we see and say we have a debt problem and our  future is perilously moving towards a tipping point of no return?

And what does this have to do with Homeland Security?

Absolutely everything.   Last week, the 2010 National Level Exercise, Eagle Horizon, took place.   It was based on a nuclear weapon detonation in Indianapolis, Indiana with additional threats to Los Angeles and Washington DC.

Look up Eagle Horizon.  You may be surprised by the volume of reporting.  Virtually nil.

This exercise has been scheduled for two years, with millions of dollars spent, and thousands of DHS and component members participating.   Where are the news reports?   Where’s the dialogue?   Why did they choose Nuclear Weapons detonation in the CONUS?

My guess is there is a threat out there and group(s) of terrorists who want to do this very thing.   Could you imagine the orders of magnitude of fear and panic our Nation would experience if this happened?  Could you imagine the devastation and loss we’d experience?   They picked that scenario and those who perpetuated it for a reason.   The time for finger pointing and rationalization are over.

As for me, I am waiting for candor.    Let’s get it all out on the table.    Are we prepared for the truth?

The essence of leadership is to exhibit presence, vision, and example, all the while leveling with the citizenry with candor and fidelity.    If our current situation does not spur the necessary gravitas to speak plainly and with virtue, than unfortunately, a dark horizon looms in the distance.    This is not histrionic or melodramatic in any sense.  Character is never revealed in good times, but in trying ones.   If we as a Nation  fail to learn from the mistakes of former Empires and Nations we will most assuredly suffer the same demise and are destined to repeat their fall.


The Gospel of John, 8:32, reads: “And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”

Those words are also inscribed in marble at CIA Headquarters.

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Comment by Arnold Bogis

May 24, 2010 @ 2:05 am

Just a couple of quick (potential) answers to some of your questions/comments:

“This exercise has been scheduled for two years, with millions of dollars spent, and thousands of DHS and component members participating. Where are the news reports? Where’s the dialogue? Why did they choose Nuclear Weapons detonation in the CONUS?”
–To take your last question first, you did notice that small recent event that gathered the largest number of foreign leaders on U.S. soil since the founding of the UN to discuss nuclear terrorism? And perhaps you noticed several other instances where the President has labeled nuclear terrorism the number one threat to the U.S.? There is a lot of information out there, and candid remarks from our leaders (go back and see Bush vs. Kerry presidential debate) on this threat. Besides the fact that it is one of the national planning scenarios.

Since the Vegas part of the exercise was canceled last year, I’m guessing there aren’t news reports because there isn’t much information out there to report. No large gatherings of officials or first responders, no impact on local communities. Just a significantly scaled down exercise with expectations radically shifted due to the bump in the road that was local Nevada politics.

“Why did our DNI resign?”
–Likely because the position has no real authority over the intelligence structure in this country, but gets blamed when things go wrong. That is without getting into losing inside-administration battles against a hard core bureaucratic infighter such as the current head of the CIA.

“And yet, that theme is downplayed by leadership, as if to say it is not significant.”
–What is being downplayed is the fact that there will be attempted and successful terrorist attacks in this country–downplayed in that we as a nation should not overreact every time such an event occurs. That is a fact of life that will be with us into the future, and in fact was with us well before 9/11. No matter how good our intel and police organizations are, another attack will occur. These are not being downplayed because of the Muslim angle, but because we should not hear from the President about an existential threat to our way of life that doesn’t exist every time someone can’t properly construct an explosive device and take American lives. To be candid, we are much better off as a nation when we realize that we must not overreact to every attempted or realized terrorist attack, whomever or whatever is behind it.

“I don’t think we are getting the full story yet about the spill.”
–Well of course not. A hole leaking liquid into a much larger body of liquid hundreds of feet below the surface of the ocean isn’t an easy thing to measure. A lack of information does not automatically indicate a conspiracy or lack of candor.

“Rather odd that a president from another country is upset with a state law.”
–Not when that state borders his country and the law in question potentially affects a significant portion of his nation’s business interests and most likely pulses domestic constituencies important to him. We, as US citizens, don’t seem too concerned when our leaders criticize the internal laws and affairs of other nations. I’m not suggesting everyone must agree with the criticism, but remember your reaction when our leaders are doing the same to others. Diplomacy is not a one way street that ends at what is solely best for the U.S.

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 24, 2010 @ 5:38 am

Well another wonderful post by Chris and comment by Arnold.
Our democracy (republic) is built on an educated polity. Is that in fact what has been built in recent decades? I would argue NO and probably start with the tome “The Closing of the American Mind” published about 1984.

But I think that the real problem may be economics in that the commons has been exploited under the “Free Market” syndrome. I am not an expert on economics but the more I learn about the life and teaching of John Maynard K. and his contributions to the financing of the British and American WWII effort the more deeply I am impressed. Perhaps a Joe Stiglitz or a Paul Krugman would be an interesting choice for the FED but probably unconfirmable. Why? Will all appointees now don’t just have to run the gauntlet of the political beliefs of the elected members of the Senate. They now have to withstand the political vetting of the “economic Royalists” taken on by FDR and to some extent the Kennedy Clan. And in the 3rd and 4th generation the Rockefellers. Am I a radical. Not if compared to some of the founding fathers who may well as Charles Beard argued in the first part of the last century they were motivated at least in part by shedding of their debts to the English. The odd thing of course is that by Treaty the diplomats of the what is now the US agreed to make sure those debts could not be repudiated. Where does this lead in light of the post and comment?
Periodically over 34 years as a gummit lawyer involved with ethics and integrity issues. The last five years in FEMA as a principal ethics official, helping FEMA to pass for the first time ever (not with the highest marks) the OGE ethics audit process. For those who don’t know individual departments and agencies can supplement OGE rules and regulations but basically enforce OGE’s strictures.
What I found over those years as a gummit attorney was that all those, whether civil servants or appointees or members of Congress that came into government believing completely that they were “OWED” their position were always the ones that got into trouble. Obviously some did not that did not felt “owed” and some who did not feel “Owed” did!

But when the President’s of the US label those who labor in public service, whether elected, appointed, or otherwise as not being interested in good government for the people of the US, or that government “is the problem” then there is a problem. Government service whether by appointment or even under contractor is not easy any more. The tradeoffs and implications of decisions that look really great on the surface by the time they have wound down to their secondary and tertiary and other impacts really can look terrible. Saying “We are doing the best we can” is certainly often the case but little time is given to explain why better performance is so difficult in the current environment. Can that environment be improved? I think so but only if thoughtful, intelligent people who are elected or appointed or whatever are allowed to express their personal views “with candor” and not as poseurs or persons with future employment in mind.

An absolutely brilliant article has recently appeared in a published law journal arguing that the so-called protection of the “deliberative process” both by law and tradition is a major error. I realize that having defended that process through FOIA and STATE SECRET arguments that it is now inherently defective and what really needed is candor.
I was always deeply impressed when working before and after military service (I was not a volunteer really even though technically–and served 2 years, 10 months, 4 days and 7 hours–although who was counting) how the Treasury and IRS protected the integrity of the lawyering process by at that time requiring each person who actively review an issue or policy to put his/her own memorandum in what often because a voluminous file. As an entry level and junior journeyman attorney I was called several times by people way up the adminstrative ladder and asked probing questions about the memos I had placed in that file in its first inception. They did not always agree but I did have the opportunity again to make and argue my opinion and obviously while not publically available was “On The RECORD” so perhaps that is the answer. When called by reporters in the past and present I was always on the record in my mind but perhaps not actually. So perhaps as Chris argues it is time not for posturing and hoping for the better “next job” but in fact to be “On The Record” in both our own minds and reality. Perhaps time for the chips to fall where they may because otherwise there seems increasing likelihood that complaceny and lack of candor will destroy the legislative and administrative and regulatory process. Until other forms of governance are invented that process is ours and we need to protect it by candor and I would add “Courage” to underlie that candor.

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 24, 2010 @ 5:39 am

Apoligies to DAN for attributing the post to Chris. It is really a brilliant post and thanks so much for all your “guest” posts.

Comment by Arnold Bogis

May 24, 2010 @ 1:06 pm

For those interested in learning more about the difficulties estimating the oil amounts being leaked into the Gulf, here is a short description by the President’s Science Adviser John Holdren:


Comment by William R. Cumming

May 24, 2010 @ 3:08 pm

Question? If data is not easily accessible on spill flow rate then what assumptions should be utilized?

Comment by Boudewijn

February 1, 2011 @ 4:32 pm

Please listen to Max Igans view: http://youjointhefamily.blogspot.com/2011/01/universal-bill-of-rights.html

We are proud of you Americans, please don’t let us down. Please make an end to it, just like “WE THE PEOPLE” in Tunis and Egypt did.

Please listen to Igan, an Australian brother with a very clear view on the matter.

Love Boudewijn

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