Did Secret Wolfowitz Meeting Violate Federal Advisory Committee Act?

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paul wolfowitz.jpg
The Federal Advisory Committee Act was enacted to formalize disclosure requirements and make transparent those who advise on federal government policy.
Vice President Cheney was in a substantial tug-of-war with the Legislative Branch and the Supreme Court for a while about not submitting to FACA and disclosing participants in an important advisory session he convened on national energy policy. But his refusal to submit did not make FACA disappear.
It seems to me that the secret advisory meeting called by Paul Wolfowitz on November 29, 2001 that brought various public intellectuals together to help marshall the best arguments for an Iraq invasion was possibly a violation of FACA.
This secret meeting was disclosed in Bob Woodward’s new book State of Denial. No one has yet raised the question of whether this meeting was a violation of FACA rules.
The New York Times‘ Julie Bosman writes:

It was the kind of shadowy, secret Washington meeting that Bob Woodward is fond of describing in detail. In his new book, “State of Denial,” he writes that on Nov. 29, 2001, a dozen policy makers, Middle East experts and members of influential policy research organizations gathered in Virginia at the request of Paul D. Wolfowitz, then the deputy secretary of defense. Their objective was to produce a report for President Bush and his cabinet outlining a strategy for dealing with Afghanistan and the Middle East in the aftermath of 9/11.
What was more unusual, Mr. Woodward reveals, was the presence of journalists at the meeting. . .Robert D. Kaplan, now a national correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, attended the meeting and, according to Mr. Kaplan, signed confidentiality agreements not to discuss what happened.
While members of policy research groups often dispense advice to administration officials, journalists do not typically attend secret meetings or help compile government reports. Indeed, many Washington journalists complain that the current administration keeps them at an unhealthy distance.

I am not a fan of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, as written and enforced, because it some how has been interpreted to allow the sort of secret sessions that Cheney held — but acts as a huge inhibitor of normal, useful, and mulitiple interactions between policy entrepreneurs and practitioners with government officials.
That said, however, after reading the contents of FACA, I cannot find an exception for the kind of meeting that Paul Wolfowitz convened.
What makes it worse is that Julie Bosman notes that a report was produced, with the names of all 12 participants, and that the report influenced President Bush. This is exactly the kind of influential meeting that FACA was designed to make transparent.
Truth in disclosure.
I am friends and well-acquainted with both Robert Kaplan and other reported attendees at this meeting and hold none of them accountable for enforcement of the FACA legal guidelines. There may be other issues with which they need to deal, but FACA was the responsibility of the government officials involved.
But this incident does, perhaps, demonstrate another case of serious disregard for America’s system of checks and balances by Paul Wolfowitz and other of his administration fellow travelers.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

39 comments on “Did Secret Wolfowitz Meeting Violate Federal Advisory Committee Act?

  1. Nixon Did It says:

    I’ve been reading you for the past couple of months, Clemons—linked from another blog—and I’ve generally enjoyed what I’ve read. This, even though it’s clear you’re all about the cocktail circuit, access and sucking up to power. I always overlooked that, figuring you were somehow kind of Broder lite and that the fruits of your access might actually prove enlightening.
    Unfortunately, you now earn honors as the poster boy for everything MSM commenters have said about bloggers. You clearly aren’t a serious or particularly ethical person; otherwise you would understand why so many Americans—as opposed to WDC insider Americans such as yourself—are so upset about this egregious breach of journalistic ethics. Clearly these two went to the same journalism school you, Miller and Nowak attended.
    You’re a smart guy. But there’s that essential DC blindness in you. What is it? Friends don’t ever say anything negative about friends? Friends don’t care if commoners suffer due to the actions of elite friends?

    Reply

  2. ET says:

    The manufacture of consent requires a conditioned, branded and co-opted press. It has been said that during times of endless opinion, fact is king. Fact is rare now, precious, and hard to come by. What can be added about these journalists who shrouded the context of their reportage and commentary? One way to correct a crooked line is to lay down a straight one. I think of Steven Biko and Donald Woods and Beyers Naude and so many others who blew the lid off the apartheid regime. I think, too, of the price of honesty when the powerholders are corrupt — and corrupting others faster than the speed of truth.
    It takes the voices of prophets and poets to shine the intense and inescapable light into the darkness that has become our government. It even takes the opposing tensions of violins and bows collapsing in exhaustion upon one another, at times, to realize a deeper sadness than even we thought possible. And, from there, and there only, we can tap the authentic bases of hope anew. Whatever can be said of this moment, this latest assault upon our collective conscience, our potential is still forward. May we have the grace to grab onto the hand proffered, to move forward, to summon the soul needed to scale that daunting and glorious mountain ahead, our eyes trained and steady upon the light.
    We know we that can be America again because it devastates us so that we are not.
    “Let justice roll down like waters. And righteousness like a mighty stream.”

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  3. Eli Rabett says:

    A major part of the problem here is that the original post only touched peripherally on the major problem. Dan Kervick tried to deal with it, but only in the middle of dealing with all the other problematic behaviors of Mr. Clemons, Mr. Kaplan, Mr. Zakaria, Mr. Wolfowitz, and for all I know Mr. Woodward.
    Let us be blunt. Mr. Zakaria took part in a policy planning meeting which also offered advice on how a policy should be sold to the country. As assistant editor of Newsweek he then sold the policy to the country, without disclosing his role.
    That sir is reprehensible, perhaps not as reprehensible as Mr. Foley, but to be honest more people have been killed and maimed (on the order of half a million) by Mr. Zakaria’s actions than Mr. Foley’s, although Mr. Zakaria might claim that his action was less,…concentrated. At the least Mr. Zakaria should resign. Moral responsibility you know. Or maybe you don’t.

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  4. Pissed Off American says:

    But I thought that 9-11 was a false flag operation or a Mossad plot, right? which is it?
    Posted by
    Look, she was warned. If we accept YOUR version, with magical passports and drunk whoring devout Muslim fanatics completely outfoxing every intelligence agency and defense maechanism that modern America possessed, or MY version, which is a false flag operation abetted by a few people within our own government, SHE WAS WARNED. And she has been lying her ass off ever since.

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  5. ... says:

    …and what about your “dancing Israelis?”

    Reply

  6. ... says:

    “And hey, Steve’s sporadic endorsements of Queen Condi are quaintly touching, are they not? After all, her only sin has been the fact that she ignored clear warnings of a serious impending terrorist attack, and has lied her ass off ever since. Thats ok, we all make mistakes, right?”
    But I thought that 9-11 was a false flag operation or a Mossad plot, right? which is it?

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  7. tofubo says:

    i’m glad we live in a transparant representative democracy and not a communist dictatorship, where i hear they have things like secret energy meetings by unknown, unaccountable central planners and the like
    as an aside, anybody see what happened to habeas corpus ?? it seems to have been misplaced, it was here before UU. got in office, maybe we can ask him or a designate where it went

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  8. Pissed Off American says:

    “Please remember this–your audience, by and large, are a VERY angry and frustrated bunch.”
    Hey, not me. I’m just absolutely and orgasmically DELIGHTED with the direction our proud nation has taken. Can’t you tell?
    The only thing missing here, on this blog, is Steve’s specific recomendations about which position Bolton can fill if he loses his UN posting.
    And hey, Steve’s sporadic endorsements of Queen Condi are quaintly touching, are they not? After all, her only sin has been the fact that she ignored clear warnings of a serious impending terrorist attack, and has lied her ass off ever since. Thats ok, we all make mistakes, right?
    Another endearing quality I enjoy about this blog is Steve’s adoration and support that he lavishes on Reid. It is truly heartening to see an individual hold someone in such high esteem that they cannot even find the words to express the reasons WHY such high esteem is warranted. Now THATS loyalty, by God. Steve can really keep a secret.
    (Steve, man, to be honest, I really enjoy your blog. And I hold quite a measure of respect for you. But sometimes I am at a loss as to your alliances and endorsements. We are in deep shit Steve, and you can’t sit in the fence forever. Pretty soon you are going to have to make up your mind.)

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  9. Dan Kervick says:

    David T,
    I can agree with you to some extent about Kaplan. Kaplan writes highky opinionated books and essays, and everyone knows he is pushing an agenda, and knows what that agenda is.
    Zakaria, however, was an editor at Newsweek when these events occurred, which I believe does place him in a position of responsibility over his publication’s straight reporting functions, and carries an obligation to discharge those responsibilities without bias, and without influence from secret agendas developed in coordination with the government on which his publication reports.

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  10. Colonel says:

    Zakaria is the brilliant scion of a prominent Indian (presumably Hindu) family. Could that have had any bearing on his attitude toward Muslim Iraq?

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  11. DavidT says:

    Dan,
    Thanks for your reply. I agree with you on your examples which I feel are different from the examples Clemons used. The examples you cite demonstrate a significant (at least to me) conflict of interest.
    Again, if Zakaria or Kaplan proposed significant elements in these meetings and them trumpeted them through their journalistic soapboxes without revealing their role in developing them I’m with you.
    I don’t consider Kaplan or Zakaria “objective.” I don’t think they pretend to be. And they are not beat reporters. They generally have a fairly strong point of view when they write their pieces and I suspect that they have influence in private with many policy-makers.

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  12. Aunt Deb says:

    Gosh, everyone whose opinions counted were invited to secret meetings and sworn to secrecy! And gee whiz, everyone who attended just happened to be an expert, too. So that made it doubly okay to discount those whose opinions weren’t in favor of pre-emptive invasion, I guess. Just stupid,inexpert citizens, after all. Being transparent and willing to have anyone attend our demos and protests, those must have been the things that got us such crappy news coverage and made the insiders call us traitors and pro-terrorist.
    The secrecy makes me furious. The whole damn PR effort of the Bush administration in the run-up to the war was to make its obsessional decision to invade Iraq seem reluctant and therefore rational. And all along, they were holding meetings, one of them this one, in which the attendees were working on how to sell us the Long War, whether they realized that or not.

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  13. Dan Kervick says:

    I would be disappointed if my favorite columnists and feature reporters didn’t meet regularly with government officials and discuss policy and in some instances may even have been solicited for their perspective.
    David T,
    How would you feel if you voted for some bond issue, or voted against some proposed environmental regulation, on the strength of editorial arguments and news coverage in your local newspaper, and then learned afterward that the reporters and editors from that paper had participated in a secret meeting with the mayor in which they had assembled for the mayor’s benefit the best political arguments for the bond issue and against the environmental regulation, and then had signed a pledge not to disclose either the meeting or their prior commitment to the mayor’s agenda to their readers?
    And suppose the secret agreement also involved a commitment to spin the news in pursuit of the mayor’s agenda?
    This really has nothing to do with whether or not there are laws on the books requiring the mayor to disclose the existence of the meeting and its participants. It is just manifestly wrong for members of the media to participate clandestinely in the very governmental deliberations on which they are reporting, or to collude with government to spin the news in some particular way. The former is a conflict of interest that compromises their pledge of objectivity and their moral contract with their readers. The latter is grossly outrageous misconduct.

    Reply

  14. Dan Kervick says:

    While I still stand by the substance of my criticisms about Steve’s take on the topic at hand, I’m now sorry I mixed those criticisms in with broad generalizations about Steve’s personal style and values. That really wasn’t either necessary or constructive, and just detracted from my point.
    The fact is, the behavior of Zakaria and Kaplan simply frightens me much more than the behavior of Wolfowitz. I already know that Paul Wolfowitz is part of the instinctively antidemocratic elite that believes it is their job to lie, spin and manipulate the unscrubbed and ignorant public into pursuing the good as the enlightened few – Wolfowitz and friends – see it. While I expect this situation to improve somewhat with a Democratic administration, I don’t expect it to improve tremendously, because my sense is that that’s just the way these self-styled Masters of the Universe, who parlay their privileges and connections into a ruthless climb to power in the imperial capital, think about the world and their place in it. I doubt I will ever trust such people, no matter what administration is in power. I have little admiration for the general culture of Washington and its political class.
    Against that skeptical background, what Zakaria and Kaplan did is much more alarming to me than what Wolfowitz failed to do, because the actions of these reporters confirms my worst fears that the government and the Washington media are “in on it together”. Suspicions of this sort of collusion between governing power and a court media is often derided as the stuff of wild conspiracy theories. And yet here it is, documented for all of us to see.
    One might say that it is the media itself that is revealing these transgressions, and so “the system is working”. But it appears that wrongdoing is only revealed when the zeitgeist changes, and when a critical mass of Washington insiders turns against the policy in question. That is not the system working; its just a case of the media drifting with the ebbs and flows of power, and latching onto the new bosses as the old one fall from favor. Maybe this recent dishonesty is being revealed. But what new manipulations might be taking place, driven by different covert media-government alliances involving different actors. If Bush administration officials and the next generation of Fareed Zakarias of the world are bent on killing more Americans on the new battlefields of – let’s say – Iran, will these schemes be revealed before they come to fruition, or anly after it is too late?
    A lot of Americans believe they have next to zero power over their gtovernment, and that our democracy is a sham – a phony simulacrum of real democracy built up out of ritualized selections from highly limited choices. We have some, though very limited, power to influence the direction of government by replacing one entrenched coalition of masters with another. But we don’t have any power to create new media institutions with the capacity to reach millions of people like Newsweek and Time. How do we remove Fareed Zakaria from office? And even if we could, how do we prevent him from being replaced by someone just as bad?

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  15. Ian Kaplan says:

    Steve commented that there was “piling on” with
    Robert Kaplan and Zakaria. I just did a Google
    News search and I did not find much about these
    journalists secretly meeting with government
    officials. I subscribe to the New York Times
    and I’m somewhat of a news junky. I did not see
    any reference to Kaplan and Zakaria until the issue
    was mentioned here. Right now it appears safe to
    state that neither of these journalists will be
    held accountable for this Judy Millerish breach of
    journalistic ethics.
    The cover that the press has provided to the
    Bush administration has shreded any concept that
    the press serves as a brake on government
    power.
    Many members of the press, like Bob Woodward,
    are compromised. They constantly appear as
    talking heads on television. They have become
    fixtures of the corporate media that runs material
    like “The Path to 9/11”. The press that we see
    today has been degraded and is a shadow of the
    press that existed in the 1960s and 1970s.
    This is why, Steve, some of us are outraged at
    what Kaplan and Zakaria have done. The fact
    that some obscure legal guideline was violated
    is really of little import in an era when our
    government has tortured people and imprisoned them
    without charges. The fact that our press has
    become a corrupted appendage of corporate media
    that curries favors from Bush and the Republicans
    is of great import.
    Ian

    Reply

  16. DavidT says:

    I enjoy your blog Steve and make it a point to read it daily.
    I am with you on this discussion. On principle, if one forgets the administration involved, the journalists involved, and that Clemons knows them, I don’t know what Zakaria and Kaplan did wrong at least behaviorally.
    If you feel that they shouldn’t be cavorting with this administration, which I sense is the real issue here, that’s a different issue. However I feel that its important, as best one can, to separate process from ideology. That is — never mind what I think of certain policies, was behavior of a given person wrong by any measure irrespective of one’s ideology?
    Whether Clemons is friendly with Zakaria and Kaplan is not relevant in analyzing this and I feel its quite unfair to question his motives given these relationships.
    Why is that law of disclosure the responsibility of the journalist whoever he’s meeting with. Are you saying that if you are a local columnist who is invited to a meeting held by your local government which is closed off to the public and the activities are undisclosed you’re at fault if it turns out that the city is not supposed to close such meetings and must disclose what was discussed?
    I would be disappointed if my favorite columnists and feature reporters didn’t meet regularly with government officials and discuss policy and in some instances may even have been solicited for their perspective. I find that the most interesting journalists usually have great minds and have quite a bit to share with others — whether they be public officials, their associates, or their reading public and such discussions are not usually disclosed whether they are friends of Clemons or not.
    It would be different and I would be more sympathetic with such arguments if Zakaria or Kaplan had proposed a specific initiative inside the administration and when put forth to the public Zakaria cheered it on without acknowledging his role in its formulation.
    I think it behooves one to try their best to separate who is doing something from what they are doing / who they are doing it with. Otherwise any and every interaction, engagement, or other contact of sorts with the Bush Administration is verboten. Is that what we really want and isn’t that not dissimilar to this administration’s decried approach by many (that I share) of being Manichean and insisting that you’re either “with us” or “against us”.

    Reply

  17. Frank says:

    What is so powerful about this TWN bloglog is the thoughtful commentaries. Attracting such articulate and thoughtful viewers is what makes this blog a joy to read.
    What these “journalists” did was thoughtless and unethical. I suspect the flattery of being asked for their opinions in “policy making” committees, over rode their professional judgement of what it means to be a reporter.
    Wolfowitz reveals his cunning in selecting the participants for this FACA meeting, and is another example of why he is one of the most criminally dangerous of the neocon cabal. How many more “reporters” have been cleverly “duped” and coopted in this way?

    Reply

  18. Ian Kaplan says:

    Steve, I am very disappointed in you. The fact that
    you have such a problem with Dan Kervick articulate
    and well written criticism suggests that perhaps it
    is you who should get out of the blog business or
    just turn off comments. Mr. Kervick made excellent
    points. You are free to disagree with them. But
    your tone of outrage is really misplaced. If he
    had flamed you and called you names that would
    be one thing. But he did not. Are you simply
    looking for sycophants who will write nothing but
    your praise at your wisdom and wonderfulness? If
    so, you probably picked the wrong topic to write
    on.
    Ian

    Reply

  19. Punchy says:

    Mr. Clemons types:
    “but I must say that I am not thrilled with the comments here that seem to be uninterested in novel pieces of the story that have not been told”
    Just my opinion, but I’d like to think the reason so many of us have eschewed your main point concerning a FACA violation is because, really, transparent illegality has become the m.o. for this Admin, and it just no longer registers on the Outrage Meter. Shorter–we’ve become numb to their lawbreaking, and we’re tired of journalists not reporting it.
    We’ve had ~6 years of what can best be described as truth manipulation (what some call bald-face lies), and we’ve (progressives) come to put a large blame for this on our media. We’re tired of the Judith Millers, and now apparently the Zakarias, of this occupation decieving us at every step of the way. If you want an explanation on how the Stewarts and Coberts have rising to such popularity so fast, I’d reckon is has little to do with them, and much more to do with how poorly CNN and ABC and their ilk have done theirs…
    I find it incredible and disturbing that you’ve asked a commenter to “find a new blog” simply because he’s rightly disgusted by our media’s lapdog mentality with respect to covering Bush’s misdeeds. Perhaps it was a little harsh accusing you of kid gloving your associates, but your visceral response seems over the top, IMO.
    Please remember this–your audience, by and large, are a VERY angry and frustrated bunch. I don’t know how much of this pure fury you see in D.C., in amongst perhaps a more nuanced mindset. Many of us Average Americans have nerves that are beyond raw. And you’ll see that on occasion in your comments; I hope that you’ll overlook some of the rare outbursts.

    Reply

  20. Tony C. says:

    Steve,
    I am a big fan of your blog, and greatly appreciate your important contribution to the national discourse during these difficult times. I’m also generally impressed by your ability to give credit where and when it’s due (e.g. Bolton on the rare occasion, Rice, etc.). I link to your site often, and will continue to do so.
    Having said all of that, I am disappointed with your strong reaction to Dan on this comment thread. I understand that the appropriateness (or not) of Zakaria and Kaplan participating in those meetings was not relevant to the central point of your post. And I can also see why you might react negatively to Dan’s effort to downgrade the importance of your central point.
    However, he does raise, to my mind, very important questions about the roles of those journalists in this meeting, and I get the impression that you simply don’t want to address the issue. Whether they are your friends or not, I’m quite certain that your readers would like to learn your opinion of the troubling questions which Dan articulated.
    Unfortunately, your angry reaction adds fuel to the suggestion that you may be uncomfortable sharply criticizing those with whom you have personal realitionships. That criticism may well be off-base. But if that is the case, you could underscore the point by addressing Dan’s concerns either in the comment thread or another post.
    Best regards,
    Tony Cobitz

    Reply

  21. Steve Clemons says:

    Dan — you and i completely disagree. I’ll keep writing things the way I see them.
    You have ticked me off for twisting my comments to reflect concern about whether people were piling on Fareed and Kaplan. I said that that was not an issue relevant to my post.
    You need to get your own blog if you don’t have one.
    best,
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  22. Dan Kervick says:

    “I try to be careful in what I write — and yet, I still make some mistakes. I am offended by your assertions that I give “kid glove” treatment to those I know well….and that’s simply not true.”
    I’m sorry Steve, but I simply must disagree. Your posts are filled with endless excuse-making, encomiums and special pleading on behalf of the folks inside your network of friends and associates. Even when you manage to criticize one of them, your criticism is typically prefaced by a paragraph or two of ingratiating, pre-emptive apologies about the criticism to follow. And your comments about the various participants in, and enablers of the quasi-fascist cabal that is running our country are oftened accompanied by assurances that you know the good fellow under consideration, and that he is really well-meaning, and a much finer fellow than all the other quasi-fascists he works with. It’s frequent, and it’s embarrassing.
    This is not just a case of “making some mistakes” here and there. It looks more like a repeated pattern of clouded judgment and disordered priorities, brought on by the biases of affection, and by too deep an immersion in the iniquitous circles of the Washington power elite.
    “There clearly is tension between Fareed Zakaria and Bob Kaplan on the purpose of the meeting. I may write about it at some point — but whether they attended or not is simply less interesting to me than whether Wolfowitz violated important statutes.”
    Well the fact that it *is* less interesting to you is truly incomprehensible to me, or rather unbelievable. For one thing, you yourself say that you are not “a fan of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, as written and enforced”. So I find it hard to believe that you are now sincerely exorcised over a possible violation of this “important statute” of which you are no fan.
    But I also find it difficult to comprehend how you could be more worked up about whether a government official failed to disclose all of the people he met with than whether a journalist committed a monstrous violation of professional ethics where the lives of thousands were at stake. Judith Miller, for example, was rightly raked over the coals for her journalistic lapses and for her shameless water-carrying for the administration. But here it appears that Zakaria and Kaplan did not just carry water, but were involved in a higher-level conspiracy to design the very pails in which the water would then be carried! And then your stylish friend Fareed sat every Sunday on ABC’s This Week and regaled the country with his expert journalistic opinion, without disclosing once to the poor saps that he had made a secret agreement to pitch the war to the public!
    Perhaps you don’t understand the feelings of those of us who are stuck out here in regular America, and who don’t wash everyday in the aura of power and insider access you admire and prize so much. We *know* that politicians are going to lie, spin, distort and manipulate – that’s what they do. The only thing that keeps alive the faintest flicker of hope that we “the people” have any real influence over the course of affairs in this country is the sense that we can, to some degree, learn the truth about what is happening. But when we learn that a prominent journalist, and the editor of a major national publication, has colluded in secret to participate in hoodwinking the public he is duty-bound to inform, it tends to make us very angry.
    I’m sorry if you think the media is “piling on” poor Fareed and Robert. But your fine friends have blood pouring off their hands.

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  23. Will says:

    Just to clarify Steve, I did NOT mean to suggest, in any way, that by not exploring the Zakaria issue that you lost some integrity in my eyes. I certainly don’t support that view, so I’m sorry if it appeared that way.
    I have nothing but respect for what you do here at the ‘Note. And even if I may have wished you to come down harder on any particular issue – I think you are generally very fair, and I understand that it would be counter-productive to burn all your bridges for the sake of purity.
    My only point was that I felt Zakaria’s presence at that meeting was was quite a revealation in itself, much more deserved of consideration, over the usual pattern of neo-con abuse of process.
    This tidbit struck a cord with me, because I had been previously be puzzled at how a person of his clout & intellect, without the kind of silliness of a Thomas Friedman type, would use so much equivocation over the fundamental questions of the Iraq war. Fact is, Zakaria seldom framed the issue outside of competence of implementation, and it always bother me that he wouldn’t ask the big questions over whether the whole project was incoherent and corrupt to begin with, as is so obvious to me. I think this goes some way to explain that credibility gap.

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  24. bianco says:

    the road to hell is paved with nondisclosure agreements. why else would a writer/editor of newsweek be attending a secret policy meeting other than to give his take on how to sell a war. duh.
    zak and kaplan probably thought they were being tapped as today’s fresh batch richard feynmans — pulled into the great american century’s first manhattan project, when all they were doing was catering vats of mayonaissse for vietnam II. can you imagine Fisk at that table, fresh with his afganistan rockwounds??
    steve writes – “There clearly is tension between Fareed Zakaria and Bob Kaplan on the purpose of the meeting. I may write about it at some point ”
    ? .. why dont they write about it! is this an open society weve got here? or is our government more a conventional corporate venture than a custodianship of the public trust.

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  25. Steve Clemons says:

    To those who think I am going light on Fareed Zakaria and Bob Kaplan, I completely disagree. No one to my knowledge has raised this FACA issue at all. I did — full stop.
    My point is not to confuse or muddy the picture between the FACA issue which interests me and is relevant to other work I am doing now and the issue that the NY Times has already exposed — which is that some high profile personalities were involved in helping Wolfowitz to market the Iraq invasion.
    Those are different subjects. I make clear that the FACA part of the story cannot hang on Kaplan and Fareed Zakaria. That is the responsibility of the government hosts…and this is simply factual.
    I try to be careful in what I write — and yet, I still make some mistakes. I am offended by your assertions that I give “kid glove” treatment to those I know well….and that’s simply not true.
    I make very clear what my subject is — I offered something beyond what the NY Times did in its story — and all some of you want is for me to pile on in the ways that other media are already doing.
    That’s not my thing. You are welcome to do that in your own blogs, but I find it something I don’t want to do unless there is some specific purpose for doing that.
    There clearly is tension between Fareed Zakaria and Bob Kaplan on the purpose of the meeting. I may write about it at some point — but whether they attended or not is simply less interesting to me than whether Wolfowitz violated important statutes.
    More later on this — but I must say that I am not thrilled with the comments here that seem to be uninterested in novel pieces of the story that have not been told — rather than if I had piled on and gone after someone’s credibility — something lots of others are already doing.
    The tone of some of these comments is simply not constructive.
    Steve Clemons

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  26. Doug Carmichael says:

    Yes to most of the above, t was a real violatio. But what strikes me is the sentence, “Mr. Kaplan, who was then a freelancer at The Atlantic Monthly, said he spoke to his editor before attending, and was given approval to attend because “everybody was in a patriotic fervor.”
    There were many of us who were opposed to the war before it happened, and knew that “war on terror” was stupid, and that reacting to provocation was just the old br’r rabbit trick of getting stuck deeper. Complex diplomacy and very disciplined police action was our preference. That kaplan felt that “a patriotic fever” was “everybody” shows that objectivity had been lost. Hard to immagine that he was not awere that senior members of the military, and many other places, were opposed. This to me is as shocking as the meeting itself.

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  27. Will says:

    I have to agree with Dan Kervick here, I think Steve is being pretty light on Zakaria for what I think amounts to a serious breach of his ethics as a journalist. At the very least he should have disclosed that he was for the war, rather than pretending to be on the sidelines.
    I’ve always wondered why Zakaria, a person I’ve always respected, would get all mealy mouthed when it comes to Iraq, saying one thing in line with Newsweek and another thing when interviewed on the Daily Show. I mean, he only really showed some dissent when it came to implemenation on the ground and the deteriorating security situation.
    I guess now we know why, he was involved in workshopping the idea with Wolfowitz. It’s a shame Steve won’t call him on it.

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  28. Ian Kaplan says:

    Dan Kervick write his excellent post as I was writing
    mine. So clearly someone does find Zakaria and
    Kaplan’s behavior disturbing. I could not possibly
    have said it better than Mr. Kervick. Steve, however
    unpleasant you might find Mr. Kervick’s words
    they are true and you should think carefully
    on this.
    Ian

    Reply

  29. Ian Kaplan says:

    Am I the only person here who finds it disturbing that
    prominent journalists attended a secret meeting
    (which they promised and did keep secret) where
    they worked on a policy paper to justify the
    invasion of Iraq? This really seems like professional
    misconduct. A journalist should have no place
    providing secret advice to the government. If they
    feel that they have advice to give, they can provide
    this advice in a public manner: in an article for
    everyone to read.
    This kind of behavior should destroy a journalists
    career. Yet no one seems to blink an eye. This
    is simply another example of how little distance
    there is between the press, corporations and
    the government. Truely this is tragic.
    Ian

    Reply

  30. Dan Kervick says:

    Steve,
    Once again, the biases born of your personal relationships appear to have led you to grab the wrong end of the stick here, and to elide the most troubling aspects of these revelations in favor of secondary matters.
    It is hardly news that people like Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz and their corporate friends have no respect for the FACA law. As you yourself note, the law itself is problematic. But leaving the nettlesome realm of legality and illegality for the time being, there is a far more troubling and obvious ethical matter staring us right in the face.
    What kind of “journalist” (i) attends a secret meeting with government officials, a meeting designed to produce policy recommendations for the President, (ii) signs a confidentiality agreement in which he agrees to compromise his vocational commitment to learning and reporting the truth, and then (iii) declines to disclose the fact of this meeting and this confidentiality agreement to his readers, to whom he continues to represent himself as an independent journalist even as he proceeds to report and comment on deliberations and policy pursuits in which he, himself is now a clandestine participant!
    Law or no law, do you think such behavior is even remotely appropriate? And if these people weren’t your friends, would you dance so quickly past this grotesque perversion of the standards of their vocation with a lame “there may be other issues with which they need to deal”?
    What I would most like to know is whether the confidential happenings at the meeting included agreements by Zakaria and Kaplan to cooperate with their associates in achieving their common end, by authoring supportive comments and overseeing favorable reporting. Apparently so! The meeting was designed to “help marshal the best arguments for an Iraq invasion”. Now we are talking about life and death here; war and peace. If it is indeed true that certain alleged journalists colluded with the executive branch to help mount an undisclosed public propaganda effort, and through stealth helped to launch a war that has killed tens of thousands of Iraqis, and killed and maimed many thousands of our fellow citizens, don’t you think that is very, very important? And in an age in which the very existence of en independent media in the United States is under threat, isn’t what Kaplan and Zakaria have done (along with The Atlantic and Newsweek) a matter of the gravest importance?
    Such behavior is a total perversion of the relationship that is supposed to hold between journalists and government officials in a free society. As far as I’m concerned, their moral failure is even worse than the violations of the government officials involved, because there are few laws that govern that relationship, and we lack legal means to preserve the appropriate boundaries. Instead we have only the thin but vital protections offered by traditional, customary institutions, and by the commitment of individuals to those institutions. These institutions, without which our democracy can no longer function as a democracy, must be maintained. But all we have to maintain them is the personal integrity and dedication of the individuals who work within them. By their actions, Zakaria and Kaplan have betrayed their profession, besmirched the reputations of their publications, and further compromised and eroded the credibility of their colleagues. Most of those colleague, I assume, still attempt to do their JOBS with integrity, and without letting their lust for position and influence, envy of insider status and personal policy preferences interfere with the performance of that job. My guess is that many of those journalists, the ones with remaining integrity, are now apoplectic, and ready to run Zakaria and Kaplan out of town on a rail.
    Zakaria’s role seems even more invidious than Kaplan’s. Not only was Zakaria a reporter and pundit, he was an *editor* of the Newsweek International, and thus in a position to exert far-reaching influence over that publication’s entire content. And here it turns out that he had agreed in secret council with government officials to act as an agent of that very government!
    Here is another reason why what Zakaria did is worse than what any of the others did. Suppose the meeting and its participants *had* been disclosed under the FACA law. The fact is, then, that for most of the participants, nothing inappropriate would have occurred. Consider the analogous situation of Cheney’s secret energy commission for example. I would dearly love to know who the participants in that meeting were. I assume most of them were energy company officials, energy institute researchers and energy economists. And while you and I might disagree with the policy recommendations made by these people, the fact is that there is nothing inherently wrong with the formal participation by people in these professions in the formation of government policy.
    But what Zakaria did was ethically inappropriate, *whether the meeting was disclosed or not*. For it is surely a violation of journalistic ethics to participate secretly in policy formation, and become an appendage of the government, while one is reporting on the events implicated by those policies. If this participation had been revealed by Wolfowitz, or anybody else, I assume it would have been difficult for Zakaria even to keep his job.
    If Zakaria wanted to play policy-maker, he could and should have taken a leave of absence from his job as a journalist. That’s what Strobe Talbot did when he decided he was no longer content with commenting on our government, and wanted to participate in running it. But clearly Zakaria *didn’t* want to take this honorable course, because his aim was both to participate in the formulation of these policies, *and* to exploit his position as a journalist to help secretly in carrying them out by duping his readers about his independence. This is truly outrageous.
    It also seems overwhelmingly likely that your friend is now simply *lying* about his role in this meeting, because if the reports of Woodward, Bosman and Kaplan are anything close to the truth, then Zakaria would have to be a rube and an imbecile not to notice that “much of the meeting was spent drafting and reworking the document which in the end carried the names of all 12 participants”. I have seen Zakaria in action on television, and read some of his work, and he is clearly neither a rube nor an imbecile.
    Once again, it turns out that the people who get the Steve Clemons kid glove treatment are those who enjoy friendly personal relationships with you. All the real outrage is reserved for those who happen not to have developed such warm relationships. Here you seem eager to deflect attention from the malodorous vices of your friends, in order to rest that attention on Wolfowitz and colleagues for failing to disclose who was at the meeting. But what are Zakaria and Kaplan doing participating in such a meeting to begin with?! If you don’t want to hold your friends “responsible for enforcement of the FACA legal guidelines” how about holding them responsible for failing to do their jobs and for failing to act with integrity by conspiring with members of the government to propagandize the public? How about holding them responsible for contributing to the neutering of our “watchdog media” during the build-up to a war which has now cost thousands of lives? How about holding them responsible for personal immorality and violations of professional ethics?

    Reply

  31. cotterperson says:

    There is group, Institute for Research: Middle East Policy http://www.remep.org that is studying “A Clean Break,” http://www.iasps.org/strat1.htm the neocon plan written for Netanyahu in 1996 by Perle, Feith, Wumser et al. They conclude that much of it has been and/or is being carried out.
    The neocon story cannot be over-told, imho. If more people understood, it wouldn’t be tolerated. I hope.

    Reply

  32. Carroll says:

    BTW…
    James Baker puts the skids to the Cheney,Wolfowitz/Neo’s plan for
    three seperate states for Iraq.
    “http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20061008/pl_afp/usiraqmilitaryunrest
    “He also rejected a plan by a top US lawmaker, Democratic Senator Joe Biden, which would carve the country into three autonomous regions: Sunni, Shiite and Kurd.
    “If we do that, that in itself will trigger a huge civil war because the major cities in Iraq are mixed,” said Baker, a former secretary of state under US President George Herbert Walker Bush.
    “There’s no way to draw lines between Sunnis, Shia and Kurds in the major cities of Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Kirkuk.”
    But he also says we can’t leave Iraq without the entire region errupting into civil wars.
    And Joe Biden is stupid or on the take.

    Reply

  33. Pissed Off American says:

    Uuuuhm…..not “thread”,…….er….ahhhh…..I meant to say “threat”.
    Damn, hope its not senility. Too young for that.
    Oh well, it could be worse, at least I can pronounce “terrorist”.

    Reply

  34. Pissed Off American says:

    Is it just my imagination, or does Steve seem to be acquiring a firmer grasp of the immediate thread that these bastards in the White House pose to our democracy?
    Well, regardless, its my bet that these scumwads are about to act so despicably and transparently against the principals of a true democracy that Steve won’t need to get down off the fence, because they’ll be knocking the fence out from under him.

    Reply

  35. Elizabeth says:

    I WOULD like to congratulate The Age for keeping the David Hicks issue alive, reporting on his progress and printing various opinion pieces on this subject.There are many worrying aspects to this case. A Four Corners story previously reported David’s claims of American soldiers bashing and sexually abusing him after capture. A story in The Age Good Weekend recently reported Terry Hicks making the same claims on David’s behalf. Now more stories of abuse of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay are being revealed by former prisoners and former prison guards.
    The President of the United States is allowed to approve abusive treatment of military detainees such as extremely cold temperatures and sleep deprivation. A new bill is before Congress that goes even further and will allow George Bush to decide by himself what abusive interrogation methods can be used. He won’t even have to disclose what they are to the public.
    The fact that our Government relies on the Americans for its information regarding Hicks is a huge concern. He is an Australian citizen, and our Government is not doing enough to protect him from these kangaroo court military commissions. The Australian Government has thrown David Hicks overboard.
    Elizabeth Gerraty, Preston

    Reply

  36. Carroll says:

    I want Wolfowitz and Feith et al subjected to waterboarding.
    Then we will have trials based on their confessions.

    Reply

  37. Steve Clemons says:

    FINEST — you write fun posts, but we disagree on this one.
    This meeting was secret. We just learned about it. It involved several high-profile journalists, think tank types, and other defense policy intellectuals in an effort to advise the President of the United States in a systematic way that involved hammering out the details of an official report of the comments there.
    This seems to me to be exactly what the FACA legally covers. The fact that there might be a violation here is important.
    That doesn’t change the fact that other important matters are percolating as well, but it is important to note potential illegalities, even if they occurred five years ago.
    Best,
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  38. JRB says:

    Funny, I always thought Wolfowitz would be in favor of FACAism. ZING!
    Sorry — I had to go for it. Great posts today, Steve.

    Reply

  39. Finest says:

    Attention Rip Van, looking at my watch it’s 2006, NOT 2001!! This happened 5 years ago. Let’s not go Captain Queig on us. FACA is caca. Maybe if YOU were a fellow traveler you wouldn’t have missed the train when it left the station. We got tinpot tyrants settin’ off nukes, fer cryin’ out loud.

    Reply

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