October 25, 2007

Never Ascribe to Malice What Ignorance Will Explain...

...though there is probably copious amounts of both in this commentary on The New Republic's handling of the Scott Beauchamp "Shock Troops" affair.

I'll be rather more kind to Mr. Sargent than he probably deserves.

There's been a very interesting turn in the saga of The New Republic's "Baghdad Diarist," the American soldier in Iraq who's been accused of fabricating negative stories about U.S. troops and publishing them in the mag.

For those of you who haven't been following this story, the soldier, Scott Thomas Beauchamp, came under withering criticism a few months ago by conservative bloggers who alleged he'd made up the stories about the troops. The Army conducted an internal investigation into the affair and concluded he'd largely fabricated them. TNR has stuck by Beauchamp, demanding that the Army publicly reveal whatever documents it had supporting the probe's conclusion. The Army has refused.

Time, facts and federal law have conspired against The New Republic, none of which are the exclusive domain of the United States Army.

Many documents related to this investigation, such as the sworn statements signed by PV-1 Beauchamp and other soldiers interviewed, in addition to certain aspects of adminstrative investigations (which this was), are not releasable to the public except as authorized by the soldier who is the subject of the report or statement.

In plain English, Beauchamp could likely release some or all of this documentation, if he desired to do so. The Army cannot release the information the magazine has asked for without his permission as a matter of federal privacy laws.

Well, guess what -- the Army may not be willing to reveal its docs to TNR, the target of its investigation, but it has just acknowledged that someone internally has willingly leaked them to Matt Drudge.

This again calls into question the Army's handling of this affair in a big way. It's bad enough that the Army hasn't been willing to show any transparency with regard to its probe into this. It's worse still that someone -- apparently an Army official -- is leaking some of the probe docs to Drudge, likely as part of an effort to get back at TNR.

"The Army" is a tremendously large organization, with varying viewpoints and points of contact. The PAO most directly involved with the overall story, Major Kirk Luedeke, came out almost immediately and acknowledged that the leak was in fact an Army leak. The Central Command FOIA office which has these and other documents related to the investigation stated in a pair of phone calls this morning that they were unaware of the Drudge story and the associated fall-out until today, and seemed genuinely surprised these documents could have become part of the public record.

I have good reason to believe, but cannot confirm, that this was an operation that happened outside the proper chain of contact for these documents. Those who are more involved with the story that would have had access to these documents know that they are part of pending FOIA requests in their final stages of preparation and legal review. The disclosure of these documents, in the manner they were distributed, is actually detrimental to the truth of the matter, which favors the military.

The Army's acknowledgment of this leak comes in Howard Kurtz's article today about this whole affair. Kurtz was following an item that appeared yesterday on Drudge revealing some of the docs from the investigation. At the end of Kurtz's article comes this, concerning TNR editor Franklin Foer:
Foer said the Army has refused to turn over supporting documents in the case, despite a Freedom of Information Act request, and then "selectively leaked" material to Drudge. In an e-mail to the magazine yesterday, Army spokesman Maj. Kirk Luedeke said he was "surprised and appalled that this information was leaked" and that the military would investigate.

In other words, an Army spokesman basically acknowledged here that while they're not willing to reveal the docs supporting their case to TNR, which is the actual target of its probe, someone internally is willing to give some stuff to Drudge, almost certainly with the intent to carry out payback against the mag. I'm not necessarily defending TNR here -- as Kevin Drum notes, this remains murky -- but the bottom line is that this Army conduct stinks really, really badly.

A completely inaccurate assessment. Acknowledgement of the leaks was occurring almost as soon as the story aired on Drudge. Far from Sargent's assertion that the military is in the process of stonewalling TNR on one hand while carrying out a smear on the other, the Central Command FOIA request office has been nothing but courteous, responsive, and professional when I've checked in for status updates and made additions to my original FOIA request, which was submitted September 9.

A simple phone call from TNR to the Centcom FOIA office in Tampa would provide them with the status of their request, a fact Foer and Sargent either did not know, or chose not to reveal. It is again worth mentioning that the documents Franklin Foer has directly asked for, such as Beauchamp's statements, could easily be released by Beauchamp himself.

The conduct of those soldiers I've worked with has been one of utter professionalism, not partisanship. We cannot say the same for Foer, or in regards to getting the facts accurately represented in this post, Sargent.

Glenn Greenwald, with his own sordid history of misrepresenting the truth in regards to the military, likewise attacks the Army in a similar manner, using the same flawed premises.

Greenwald accuses the military of being an "increasingly politicized, Republican-controlled division of the right-wing noise machine."

Reality, however shows us that as far as this story is concerned, it seems that only bloggers are doing the job that most journalists won't do, such as sending emails, asking questions, and making phone calls to those involved in the still-developing story.

Perhaps if Greenwald exhibited some interest in doing actual journalism from time to time, or even getting his facts in order before opining, I would not find him so easy to dismiss.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at October 25, 2007 02:06 PM

After reading Glenn "sock puppet" Greenwalds article at Salon I really am amazed at the vicious hatred that the left has for our soldiers!

Posted by: Capitalist Infidel at October 25, 2007 03:35 PM

Of course Greenwald hates them. They're doing the unforgivable -- they're winning.

Posted by: Ellison Ellensburg Wilson at October 25, 2007 08:27 PM

Not to mention that the vast majority of the military votes Republican.

There is a reason Algore wanted to keep the absentee ballots that arrived by military mail from being counted in Florida in 2000.

Posted by: C-C-G at October 25, 2007 09:33 PM

Would PV Beauchamp have had access to these documents?
Just a thought.

Posted by: Peter at October 26, 2007 07:07 AM

If, in fact, Army personnel did leak these documents they should receive the same punishment that the NY Times editors received when they leaked National Security information. Probably a promotion and a raise!

Posted by: Faith at October 26, 2007 07:50 AM

Depending upon who sent these documents to Drudge, they may not have been leaked. Certainly any soldier who wrote up the document has a copy of them, and is able to send them to whomever they want.

Posted by: Diggs at October 26, 2007 08:24 AM

Diggs, any unauthorized document release is considered a leak by my understanding. There is a proper procedure for releasing these docs, and it was circumvented.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at October 26, 2007 09:06 AM

"Would PV Beauchamp have had access to these documents"?

Yes. He was almost certainly given a copy of the Memo of Concern almost immediately after signing.

The AR 15 IO Report was given to him with the understanding that he could not divulge the sworn statements of the various witnesse

Posted by: belloscm at October 26, 2007 09:48 AM

Not witnesse, but witnesses. Sorry

Posted by: belloscm at October 26, 2007 09:50 AM

The PAO most directly involved with the overall story, Major Kirk Luedeke, came out almost immediately and acknowledged that the leak was in fact an Army leak.

Permit me a quibble.

The leak seems to have come from someone with access to the records in the Army's possession, but calling it an "Army leak" implies that the Army in some way sanctioned or allowed the leak to occur.

My guess is a NCO in the personnel records section did the leaking, meaning someone in the Army leaked it, which of course is what you mean anyway.

I'm too far removed from my USMC days to remember what the personnel records section is called, and its probably designated differently by the Army in any event. But - if its done similarly to the way its done in the USMC - these records would be accessible by a relatively small group of people that maintain them.

I'm sure they know exactly which people to ask about the leak, and I'm equally sure that this is an 'honor' leak, and if anyone knows who leaked it, they won't say.

I've just found myself growing apprehensive about the way this whole "Army leak" thing is being talked about, as if "The US Army" leaked it.

And no, unless Beauchump works in his company HQ, he wouldn't have access to these records. Remember Radar from MASH? It was a guy in a HQ job like his that did this, or that's my guess. Someone PO'd at Beauchump that wants the story out, or knew it was coming out and wanted to play footsie with Drudge.


CY, great job on this. Drudge smudge, without you none of this would ever have come out.

Posted by: DaveW at October 26, 2007 09:57 AM

bello, I posted without reading your comment, so wasn't arguing with your post.

FWIW, Beauchump would have copies of his article 15 determination, but I doubt he'd have access to the transcripts and whatnot associated with the investigation.

He'd have a copy of the "charge sheet" and whatever he walked away from the Art 15 with. I don't see how he'd get copies of transcripts of phone calls with TNR.

Frankly, I'm surprised there even are such transcripts, and boy does their existence bode ill for TNR.

Posted by: DaveW at October 26, 2007 10:03 AM

An interesting comment from this Sargent screed: that TNR is the target of the Army's investigation. Huh??? The Army has been remarkably responsible to the soldier at the center of this whole thing, and it was the soldier that was the target of the investigation, not TNR. The Army, I'm sure, has grown accustom to the libels of the MSM and, from all accounts I've read, never contended that it was investigating the TNR. A little honestly, please??

Posted by: David B at October 26, 2007 10:12 AM

I'm still not willing to let "Gene" the lawyer off the hook. It says right there in the phone call that Beauchamp was going to fax his signature to Gene giving permission for the army to turn over the stuff that was in the file 3.pdf. I wouldn't be surprised if Beauchamp and his sargent also thought it would be helpful/appropriate to send the 2 pdf's of the phone transcript to Gene, too.

I'm not saying that Gene intentionally leaked them. Just that the world is full of people who are naive, clueless and/or careless about security, and a clerical person in the law office might have found the allure of feeding drudge too much to resist.

Anyway, the army should know who ever had custody of those 3 pdf files. If the lawyer only got one or two of them, then his office is off the hook. But if those three docs were given to the lawyer, then somebody ought to be asking questions at Gene's office, too.

Posted by: cathyf at October 26, 2007 10:45 AM

As always, I am amused at the slighting reference to "conservative bloggers" questioning the Beauchamp stories. There are vets on the liberal side too, any one of which ought to have detected the whiff of BS immediately. And yet... I am reminded of Kos and the whole "chemical weapons in Fallujah" non story. Kos claims to have been an artilleryman, and as such ought to have been quite familiar with WP ordnance, its use and effects, and yet he led the charge against US forces.

For decades people in the military were harrassed with the bogus "had to destroy the village in order to save it" quote, which we now know was invented by Peter Arnett to slander the troops and mindlessly parrotted by people considering themselves pure and well intentioned and morally superior. This is the same thing, all over again - invented stories, playing to the left's preferred narrative, that despite their gaping flaws are uncritically swallowed because even if they are false they're too good not to be true.

So the new mantra of the left is: even if it's a lie, if it makes us feel good it's true.

Posted by: Steve Skubinna at October 26, 2007 11:11 AM

Speaking of bloggers, Michael Yon seems to have one of the best takes on the story.

The Rule of Second Chances

Beauchamp's CO says Beauchamp made a big mistake, but he owned up to it, and wants to go back in, so he is. It's been cleared up at the unit level.

"... LTC Glaze told me that Beauchamp wanted to stay and make it right. Whatever price he has to pay, he is paying it."

The New Republic, on the other hand, has surely made a mess of their reputation. Sounds like Beauchamp is a better man than the guy at TNR.

Posted by: ZZMike at October 26, 2007 11:21 AM

Mis-direction and changing the subject is SOP for the Left, especially when it gets called out after one of its childish stunts backfires. Two weeks ago, it was manufactured outrage over an improbable utterance by Rush Limbaugh following the genuine outrage over the MoveOn-Democrats 'Betray Us' embarrassment.

In this case, better for the Left's meme merchants to lure the discussion into a fog of legalisms and the minutae of military procedure, manufacturing a diversionary issue to take the spotlight off of where it belongs -- the mendacity of those entrusted with the privilege of keeping us informed.

Posted by: Vinny Vidivici at October 26, 2007 11:45 AM

Because the MSM & Greenwald types firmly believe the motive of any criticism from their right is impure, they have no problem seeing themselves (and their ilk) as victims whenever it occurs.

Lacking the ability of honest self-examination, they'll continue doing the same thing - they're simply not capable of learning.

Assuming they aren't just trying to provide covering fire for TNR.

Posted by: BD at October 26, 2007 12:24 PM

Even on board the Titanic, after it hit the iceberg, there were some survivors. Yeah. The water was cold! And, it's not "luxury travel" on board a life raft, either. But it's nice to stay alive.

Or, to paraphrase Winston Churchill: It's nice, when someone shoots at you, that the bullet zings by, and misses. He said this was EXHILERATING.

Foer's premise is that TNR's hands were tied. They could spiel out what the army was saying; but from Beauchamp? Nada.


Michael Yon shows up with a compliment tossed out about how Beauchamp, who could have left the army, (to follow his Hemingway-esk career), actually made the decision to STAY. And, to go out on risky assignments with others in his outfit.

For what it's worth. TNR has fired Elspeth Reeves. And, they've plastered over the holes in Beauchamp's story, with the "fact" that they tried to get Beauchamp, himself, to retract the stories AT the magazine. That printed them. To no avail.

Is journalism a club?

Yes. It is.

Similar to Skulls & Bones? You know. Where even if you go to Yale, you're not let "in." To get "in" you hae to be a member of the club.

And, the club? Is protecting one of its own.

How come Beauchamp never just told Foer to go fly a kite?

Up ahead? Well, Beauchamp is stuck. Because whatever words he says "publicly" about his stories ... Foer can honestly claim were never put in front of the magazine.

You know what I think? Beauchamp is playing this thing for all its worth! For a young kid out of journalism school; I don't know if he's gonna hit the "Hemingway" stature. But as a con artist? WOW. This kid's got the world figured out.

Sure. Foer's got "his side of the story."

Unfortunately, TNR is the Titanic. It's reputation is getting busted up.

While the members of the exclusive club, just go about talking to one another. Pretty sure that the blogosphere ain't mainstreet.

Posted by: Carol Herman at October 26, 2007 12:39 PM

Twice, Mr. Sargent describes TNR as "the target of the investigation."
That means that he makes two misstatement two times. Many on the left seem to think that if you repeat a falehood often enough, it will come to be seen as true. Maybe, but only if people who care about the truth let them.
First, the Army's investigation is over. We all know what the meaning of meaning of "is" is, don't we?
But more importantly, TNR was not the "target" of the investigation. TNR is not in the Army, and the Army has more important things to do that attack the ethical standards of opinion journals, even pushovers like TNR. His view that the Army is trying to harm the TNR because it is in league with right-wingers is nothing but a symptom of leftist paranoia.
The left needs to cling to their myths. They simply cannot process the truth, if it contradicts the myth. So they cannot accept that Beauchamp's stories were baloney, like they cannot accept that it was not the White House, but war opponent Richard Armitage, who outed Valerie Plame, that none of what the Swifties said about Kerry has been discredited... I could go on, but my lunch hour is ending. It's tiresome, but we have to keep pushing back.

Posted by: Jim O'Sullivan at October 26, 2007 12:55 PM

I read TNR's explanation of their investigation. It is logical and reasonable. It could easily be accepted as an argument for wait-and-see by, well, anyone WHO HAS NOT BOTHERED TO READ THE TRANSCRIPTS. For those who have read the transcripts, it is obvious they are up to their ears in it, and still digging. What a load of horsesh!t. Someone show Foer the doer.

Jack Straw

Posted by: Jack Straw at October 26, 2007 03:28 PM

Kind of OT but here is what a friend of mine is doing to support our armed forces:

The author of I Wanna Go Home, Karridine, has authorized me to give away 1,000 free copies of the song to our men and women in the military for personal use only. However, recipients of a free copy can let anybody listen to it if they want. Members of the military can put it on their i-pod, use it on their computer, or make one CD.

You can find out how to get a free copy at 1,000 Free Copies.

CY: If you want a copy for review e-mail me. My e-mail address is on the sidebar.

Posted by: M. Simon at October 26, 2007 04:00 PM