CIA Document News

Recently a long time CIA officer passed away and based on clues in his obituary new research has revealed that he had been personally involved with overseeing virtually all the document releases from the early requests by individuals such as Weisberg and Lane through the Church Committee and HSCA inquiries – even being brought back as a consultant after retirement to deal with the JFK Records Act and the ARRB.
Charles (Chuck) Briggs Sr. served with the CIA for 34 years, retiring in 1986. He was an administrative specialist and worked in all four CIA Directorates, serving as Comptroller, Director of Services Staff, Inspector General, Executive Director and Congressional Liaison. He held the unique distinction (in June of 1983) while serving as the Executive Director, of being briefly designated as the Acting Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) and Acting Deputy Director (DDCI), serving in all 3 positions simultaneously.
Much of his records release work was done while working for the Operations Directorate and reporting to the DDO. During the Church Committee, he was named acting Inspector General. His name can be found associated with the requests for of an extended series of documents:
Chief Services Staff and Classifying Officer 1975 Church Committee Request for Warren Commission documents:

Chief Services Staff 1976 Internal Request from Chief, Information and Privacy Staff on Howard Hunts Travel Records:

Request from Harold Weisberg on information about Martin Luther King:
As Chief of Information Services, in 1976 Briggs led the CI Records Study dealing with James Angleton’s files following his dismissal. It has been known that those files were held separately from the regular CIA Headquarters filing system.

Brigg’s report on the Angleton work reveals just how extensive they were. The work to process them involved “several hundred feet of files/418 feet” and involved a number of employees over some four years. By 1979 the records transfer was something like 60% complete.

It has been long rumored that Angleton’s files were destroyed upon his departure.  Briggs own memorandums reveal that to be untrue – but also illustrate that there are sensitive file collections outside the standard CIA file collection, and suggest those files are never made available either to requests or Congressional inquiries. It also confirms that none of Angleton’s files were available for release to the Warren Commission or any following JFK assassination investigations.

There is a great deal to be learned from Brigg’s work, it highlights the true legal restrictions imposed on the CIA and its personnel by the national security acts of 1947/48. The Federal legal code associated with that seriously restricts document releases and apparently trumps civil law in instances where “sensitive and compartmentalized” documents are involved. I’ll go into more detail, with examples from Brigg’s own career, in a follow-on post.



In the final chapters of Surprise Attack I spent a good bit of time evaluating the tendency, and risks, of turning to military posturing in pursuit of domestic political advantage. Having covered several examples of that, ranging from LBJ’s manipulation of the Tonkin Gulf incidents through the Nixon and Reagan administrations, I was struck by the fact that in regard to current events, as 2013 ended Russia’s Premier Putin was once again opening Pandora’s Box in an effort to restore his domestic reputation.
In detailing his efforts, even in those early days, it was obvious that playing the nationalist / national security card was producing wonderful results in his public perception and polling. And as his spending plans became constrained by a dramatic decline in oil and gas revenues the predictable response was accelerating rhetoric about a Western threat and traditional calls for Russian economic self-sacrifice to sustain a massive rebuilding of both its nuclear and conventional military complex.
In the broad perspective, regardless of your political position, it would be hard to accept that the Obama Administration had represented a military threat to the Russian Federation – or that European nations which had for years been essentially disarming themselves would have represented a territorial or even economic threat to Russia. Yet almost immediately Russian spokespeople and Putin himself began a regular discourse based in threats related to Russia’s atomic weaponry and its strategic nuclear power.
Still, all of that might have just been a domestic political play – not too different as that routinely seen in American political campaigns. Even seeing Russia assert its global power with aerial reconnaissance flights and probes of American naval units conducted by its classic turboprop Bear bombers would not have been unusual. Such reconnaissance was relatively standard by both West and East during the Cold War. America continues it today in the Pacific, just as does China – with both air and naval units. Asserting international transit rights has some risks but it’s not nearly in the same category as the intimidation tactics Russia turned to in Europe and elsewhere.
Increasingly NATO forces, and later Japanese and other Western nations including the U.S. began to track actual “strike packages” composed of tankers, long range fighters and strategic bombers making approaches towards and along their borders. In Scandinavia, Russia strike packages clearly carried out what appeared to be full blown bombing attacks, right to the edge of the Russian border and in some instances a bit beyond it. And to add to the danger, the flights were conducted with international identification transponders turned off and with no notice or communication with civilian air traffic control. In at least one instance and possibly more, collisions between Russian aircraft and civilian transports were avoided only through civilian pilot course changes.
Most recently, we have seen similar risk taking and actual consequences. Russian built fighters flown by Syria had previously overflown Turkish air space and over the last couple of weeks massive Russian air strikes have been conducted with no coordination or real time communication between the Russians, Syrian government or the Turkish government. Apparently a couple of days ago Turkey actually warned Russia against close air strikes against the anti-Assad Turkman enclaves across its border in Syria. And today one of those Russian aircraft engaged in just such strikes was downed by Turkish fighters after repeated radio warnings. Given that the pilots of the plane were apparently shot and killed by Turkman fighters as they parachuted from their plane, the public calls for some sort of retaliation are going to be extreme.
At present the net result of Putin’s extensive focus on and use of the Russian military has escalated and solidified his domestic support. The same thing could have been said for Lyndon Johnson in 1964, following his assertive military response to a North Vietnamese attack on an American destroyer – which never really happened. It’s widely held that Johnson’s move ensured his re-election just as Putin’s strategy has maintained him in power. That seems to almost always be the short term result, as for the long term result – history shows us the consequences.

Acts of War

I’m not sure what I can say that won’t be more than a little redundant but I feel compelled to bring wade into it again. A jihad against Western nations and western culture was declared in 1996 – it called for all westerners in Muslim nations to be attacked. In 1998 the jihad was broadened to call for attacks on the west around the globe. The declared intent was to drive western governments and western individuals of all stripes totally out of Muslim territories.
The western nations basically ignored the jihadi call and attacks began, becoming constant and escalating in scope and number of casualties. As would be expected, in many areas the call for religious jihad quickly became subsumed by political ambition. Chaotic governments, massive corruption and sectarianism in those same Muslim nations quickly led to individual leaders and groups leveraging the call to jihad as a device to establish their own political power. The jihadi banner simply provided recruiting clout and legitimacy. Many of the recruits themselves were true believers, quite willing to sacrifice themselves. There is nothing particularly new about that, the declaration of end times and a call to aid God in bringing them “now” had plagued apocalyptic religions of all stripes. The threat of suicide attacks is certainly not restricted to ISIS or even those waving the black flag.
The thought that the west is simply in a war with ISIS and that bombing them into submission in Iraq and Syria will win that war is simply wishful thinking. Its fair to say the Taliban in Afghanistan was bombed to pieces, yet Afghan jihadi’s continue to join attacks on the west both inside and beyond their borders. Destroying ISIS financial base would be a positive move, and much more meaningful. That’s why this weeks combined US gunship and A-10 operation against ISIS tankers is tactically far more important than Russia flying strategic bombers into Syria to pretty much indiscriminately pound ISIS held towns.
To get to my point, the key term that should be discussed – and which you have not heard in the media at all, possibly since its a military term – is interdiction. Cells will continue to form and plot, as they have since the 1970’s – whether they are driven by the Palestinian issue as they were then, by leaders using them to strike soft targets to maintain their own credibility or by true jihadi believers is a moot point. However the tactics used to interdict such attacks are well known and proven, I discuss them at length in Surprise Attack. In 2001 the US had warnings just as the French did last month, the failure was in launching a broad, successful interdiction.
The fundamental problem is that the attackers continue to operate under a declared state of war, and overall the west up to this point has not responded with the appropriate legal declarations to act against them before the fact as combatants rather than after the fact as criminals. Those legal measures are required to allow truly successful interdiction, that’s why they are brought into play during a declared war. It’s not a matter of not knowing what to do, it’s a matter of having the resources and legal authority to do it. To some extent the US has embarked on at least some measure of that, in the “gray warfare” we describe in Shadow Warfare. That works to some extent overseas where you can put American military under title 50 code but it does not work domestically. Actually the US may even have done better domestically than Europe, in a pragmatic response to 9/11. Europe and France in particular appears not to even have gone that distance
Yet even in the U.S., with all the fear mongering and political posturing, Congress has taken no measures to establish a legal and monetary framework for a proactive defense to interdict attacks. Such measures demand certain unpopular steps – such as profiling. Think of fighting a war without profiling your attacker….you don’t catch serial killers without it, and you don’t stop jihadi’s before they attack.
And in terms of legal authority and funding….Congress has passed no Authorization for Military Force since that of 2001 – and that is legally limited to only the 9/11 attackers. Congress has demonstrated no will to even discuss the new requests submitted by the Obama Administration, which are themselves far too focused, addressing no threat simply ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
I know this sort of talk is unpleasant but the simple truth is that these attacks are not going to go away, there is no absolute safety (actually there never has been) and either you do all you can to disrupt and interdict attacks or….it’s actually a choice, but at this point we are making that choice strictly by default.


I suspect a lot of you might prefer that I posted on research related to the political assassinations of the 1960’s – especially that of JFK. Certainly it’s a subject that still involved with – even doing new research as the opportunity presents. I will post on some of that following the Dallas conference. But I have to say, the ongoing studies that led me first into deniable and covert warfare and larger questions of warnings intelligence, national command authority and military confrontations tend to hold my attention these days. That’s because after researching some 60 years of those activities, it’s clear there are lessons that are not being learned from even our most recent history.
Surprise Attack examines the Cold War in considerable detail but more than that, it looks at how domestic politics and political campaigns are far more important – and potentially dangerous  – in bringing about strategic confrontation than we acknowledge. As an example, Nixon’s campaign promises on Vietnam let him into an extremely dangerous gambit, secretly threatening nuclear warfare to force a conclusion. These days that is known as the Nixon/Kissinger “madman” strategy. Less discussed is that Ronald Reagan’s aggressive campaigning and remarks about a Soviet “evil empire” were translated either with his knowledge (or as it increasingly seems, without) into a series of military actions which we now know almost drove the Soviets into a panicked, preemptive nuclear strike. In examining Soviet correspondence now available, they quite openly stated that they did not understand if comments made during Reagans election campaign were for political effect, or deadly serious.

With the end of the Soviet regime and the Cold War, we might have thought such a political risk had ended. Unfortunately the same political tactics that can win elections and garner public support are now being used in the Russian Federation – and its working. Actually it’s amazing how frequently Mr. Putin has been threatening (with measures beyond those of the Cold War) and invoking the nuclear card. I explore that in the last chapter of Surprise Attack; I think most have failed to follow the news of some of the most outrageous Russia threats. And it continues. This week a Russian media broadcast included a remotely guided submarine weapon capable of creating “wide areas of radioactive contamination, rendering them unusable for military, economic or other activity for a long time”. The weapon is in the continental destruction class of cobalt enhanced nuclear devices – something not even discussed since around 1960.

Later Russian remarks that the broadcast was a mistake are nonsense, the Russian military does not make that sort of mistake with the media, never has. The fundamental problem is that Putin is very successfully reviving an assertive strategic military projection and with it elements of the MAD man strategy. It is a tool that seems to be working extremely well for him and his domestic popularity. However it is a tactic that brings back the very worst elements of the Cold War – and as usual, is fueling American politics and the positions taken in current presidential debates.
So, you might want to set your calendar back to 1970, or 1980 …just to be current.

2015 JFK Lancer Conference

This year’s Lancer conference promises to be an outstanding event. The speaker line up has really come together and we have a great mix of well known names and individuals such as Gary Murr and Ian Griggs who have been doing very deep historical research but who are just now able to begin sharing their most recent work. You can find most of the speakers listed on the conference site at:

In addition, we will have presentations from Buell Frazier who has only recently begin to talk about certain of his experiences including the heavy handed effort by Will Fritz the night of the assassination – an effort to force him to sign a confession of involvement in the attack.  Michael Mercades, Rose Cheremie’s son will also be appearing – for those who have followed her story, he was the toddler in Dallas at the time of her experiences on her trip back from Miami to Houston.

We expect to have a number of the Parkland Doctors at the conference, in support of the upcoming movie – The Parkland Doctors.  We are also very pleased to have Robert Tannenbaum at the conference on Saturday afternoon, in support of that project.  Peter Dale Scott and other long time researchers will also be coming by the conference Saturday afternoon for an authors round table and “meet and greet”.

….as much as I hate it, we have just been advised that Tannenbaum now has someplace else he has to be at that time and it looks like he will not make it after all…on the other hand, we are working on a special session with some late breaking research related to the CIA and its control of documents….he would probably have enjoyed what we will be discussing…

As for myself, I will be speaking – evaluating LBJ’s actions, events on Air Force One and the general national security response. The question of whether those activities are so unique as to be suspicious or if they represent the “norm” when compared to national crises such as the shooting of President Reagan and the attacks of 9/11 is a large part of Surprise Attack and I think the book answers that question in considerable detail so I will be speaking to that Saturday evening of the conference.

If you have the opportunity please join us and if you have questions, as always, email me at

Cuban Missile Crisis Revisit

Once again an anniversary has come and gone and what little I saw written contained few of the historical insights gained in the last couple of decades – much like what happens on the anniversary of the Bay of Pigs each year.

One of the subjects brought up in the typical anniversary copy is the Thor missiles in Turkey – generally referred to as outdated and bargained away as a sop to Khrushchev to allow him to save face while removing missiles from Cuba. The real story, and the role of those missiles in causing the Soviet gambit in the first place, is far more complex. I certainly don’t have room to describe that all here – besides its all in Surprise Attack, buy the book, read it, trust me you’ll like it…grin.

The thing is that by 1961 the Soviets had suffered several really bad problems with their nuclear armament programs and there was truly massive long range missile gap – but it was on the Soviet side rather than the American side as feared only a year earlier. Still, the Soviets had a wealth of IRBM’s in place which could have decimated Western Europe and by itself that might have been sufficient leverage to call it a strategic draw.

Only in recent years have we come to realize the game changer was the perception that the US had achieved “decapitation” ability. In strategic terms decapitation means the ability to take out your enemy’s leadership, its command and control ability in a manner that would preempt any effective retaliation. And while the Jupiter IRBM’s in Turkey were rapidly being surpassed by newer missiles, they had indeed put the Soviets at risk of a missile strike with flight paths of only minutes – in short, exposing them to decapitation.

The only answer to that was either a forwarded deployed submarine fleet – or the Soviet nuclear subs were all in port with huge reactor design issues – or putting IRBM’s with the same decapitation capability close to the U.S., say in Cuba.

In reviewing the JFK missile crisis tapes and notes it somewhat surprising that even after the discovery of the Soviet missiles in Cuba, neither JFK or McNamara really seemed to grasp the reasoning behind the extremely risky Soviet move. As days passed senior military advisers attempted to get across the fact that there was a strategic difference between nuclear missiles in Russian and nuclear missiles in Cuba. To this day it’s unclear that issue was fully appreciated, but the promise of removing the Jupiters was much more substantive than is generally discussed even now.

Decapitation is a concept which comes up repeatedly in Surprise Attack – in fact you might be surprised to learn that the Russian Federation has recently begun a major restructuring of its armed forces – ostensibly due to fears of a decapitation strike by American’s planned hyper-sonic strike missiles, to be deployed under the Global Strike concept.

Welcome to the Circus

This morning the chair of the Benghazi committee responded that eleven hours of testimony from Clinton had not produced anything new.  Given that its members asked the same questions as before I suppose that is not a huge surprise to him.  I honestly do not know if he and the members are as clueless about national security law as they seem – and its limits on testimony – but I sure wish they would get some educated counsel and ask the questions that could be productive.

I was particularly shocked by the political discussion of the early releases about the attack being triggered by a movie being a political ploy…when it was clear within a day or so that it had been a planned and coordinated attack.  That has to be all  politics because I refuse to believe that the Congress person does not understand that lives and operations were both still in progress and at risk and needed to be protected. Disclosing why al Qaeda had attacked a minor and temporary facility would have led directly to a major CIA operation and you just don’t do that.

However, rather than  yammer on about the fruitlessness of it all,  anyone interested can see further elaboration in the article below:







Questions about Benghazi

For those of  you following the new round of Benghazi hearings, I thought you might be interested in an estimate of what you will and won’t be hearing…and why not.  If you have already read Surprise Attack you know all this of course….

Questions quoted from CNN article by Elise Labott

1. Why did the United States remain in Benghazi despite the escalation of violence and even as other consulates were closed? Committee staff say they hope to hear from Clinton what the “vital national interests” in Benghazi were that outweighed the obvious risks.
…..the vital American interests were not diplomatic but relate to a large scale arms interdiction and weapons transfer program being carried out by the CIA station in Benghazi; the diplomatic mission was used as an employment cover. Clinton is legally restrained from talking about CIA operations as would be any members of the Benghazi committee actually briefed on the operation if it has been revealed to the House and Senate intelligence committees. That simple fact makes this particular line of inquiry a nonstarter and simply political theater.
2. Why wasn’t Clinton aware of requests for additional security in Benghazi?
……..this one is more complex but Stevens himself rejected military security for his trip to Benghazi and the facility itself was not officially registered with the Libyan government and was considered temporary. We do know that there was only a single diplomatic officer stationed there and that was on a rotating basis, there appear to have been plans to turn it into a real diplomatic facility but deterioration of the security situation in the country argued against that. This one will be really hard to address without bringing in its role as a cover for operations at the separate CIA station about a mile and a half away. Referred to as the “annex” for cover purposes, that station itself violated a number of historic practices which traditionally had not placed CIA operations bases near American facilities. Intelligence activities are routinely hidden inside State Department missions but that type of cover is far different than providing a physical cover for field stations.
3. What was Clinton’s involvement in discussions about a military response?
…..this one is much easier to talk about. The State Department FEST response teams have no military component and only respond to an incident after security is restored. Legally national command authority (President/SecDef) are the only ones empowered to direct a military response and that is a matter of giving an order to the appropriate unified military command – in this case AFRICOM. That was done, Clinton was not involved and should not have been. If anything the CIA and its military element should have been consulted and involved – that appears to have happened but earlier investigations suggest AFRICOM was not even initially aware of the Annex. On the other hand, JSOC task force Trans-Sahara, with personnel in Tripoli, was operating a surveillance drone east of Benghazi and appears to have been involved in at least some of the covert CIA operations. That could not be addressed by Clinton and the committee is carefully avoiding pursuing these areas of classified operations….which legally could not be discussed with them due to compartmentalized security restrictions even if they did. With the intelligence committees yes, with the Benghazi committee, no.
Beyond that there is a lot to say about the whole concept of military defense for diplomatic facilities, what was not available in terms of quick reaction then and what is now. Clinton can talk about that but it would be far better to question AFRICOM, SecDef and the Joint Chiefs. I haven’t checked but not much attention seems to have been paid to questioning SecDef Rumsfeld, who actually carried the military responsibility in regard to the capabilities available for responding to any attacks.
One point that may come is the rumor of some stand down order in regard to the military response. While that has been thoroughly debunked in earlier inquiries, it’s still being used for political points. However based on actual statements from the CIA security personnel at the annex we know that response was delayed because, as in earlier incidents, the CIA station chief was charged with maintaining a low profile and the preference was for local militia response. This is another non-starter for Clinton as she cannot talk about the reality of the CIA operation so any dialog in this are is going to be non-productive and largely for political effect.
4. Why did the State Department keep the Benghazi facility as a “temporary mission”?
……this one is really a tangent to the first question and has to do with the CIA operation and probably with failed hopes for a more stable and supportive situation in Libya. The Ambassador had extensive relationships in Benghazi, dating back to the revolution and no doubt initially saw it as a positive place for contacts. Earlier investigations suggested that he may not have realized how far the situation in eastern Libya had deteriorated as he had not been there in a year. Certainly the reason for his trip, and the ship that had sailed out of Libya for Turkey with a load of arms destined for CIA vetted groups in Syria is not going to be explored.
5. Could security improvements have been made before the attacks?
…..this one is easy although an interesting area for debate. Clinton will obviously have her own opinions. I discuss this whole are extensively in Surprise Attack. It’s the one place where she might be able to offer some positive input for the record but of course it’s Congress who funds all areas of the security and it’s an expensive thing. To date these discussions of what should be provided have repeatedly outstripped funding, which might make for a touchy area if Clinton wants to push back.



If you have followed this blog you know that I’m all about primary research whenever possible, I find that far too many people are convinced by articles and videos on the internet without doing much homework on their sources. It also seems that everyone has come to feel that the government never tells the truth about its activities – while that may be true short term, if you are interested in history, it’s amazing how much real information does eventually become available through document releases or FOIA.

And I’m talking about some real insider information, for example State Department documents are often quite outspoken about CIA activities – even when the CIA is not. In turn, CIA documents are often quite cutting when they start talking about the State Department. Almost all government agencies have Inspectors General, or the equivalent, and I can tell you from experience they often make no bones about calling out issues and failures. Admittedly Agency senior managers often disregard those points, even when a report singles out individuals and proposes performance investigations, but the devil and much dirt can be found in IG reports.

As an example, I’m convinced that most of the media who talk about 9/11 have never read the 9/11 Commission Report – which is quite damming if you really look at it – or read the responses from various agencies to it, which are wonderful examples of the fine art of CYA. It’s pretty embarrassing to see NORAD respond that it made numerous mistakes in reporting events of the day because its staff simply could not seem to get them straight. Of course the 9/11 staff were not impressed by that, they wanted to bring actual charges…

My real point here is that there are a host of resources, even online resources, if you want to get the real story on history. I find that many folks don’t realize the breadth of documents and information available at the Mary Ferrell Foundation (MFF). In addition to resources on the JFK, RFK and MLK assassinations, the site also has information on Kennedy’s 1963 activities in Vietnam and Cuba and the Castro assassination plots. Moving on to the 1970’s it sources materials on Watergate and on the Intelligence Committee activities of the 1970’s and in regard to the 1980’s it contains documents and sources on the Iran-Contra scandal and investigations. I’m always amazed when I talk to those interested in the history of the period who are not even aware of the MFF.

Beyond the MFF, there are numerous other reliable online resources and you can find links to them at:

The National Security Archive is a mandatory stop for anyone interested in Cold War history; it is continually showing casing new documents obtained by its own FOIA activities. A new resource, known by far too few, is the immense collection of FBI documents related to its investigations of both right and left wing groups. Ernie Lazar spent an immense amount of effort in FOIA collection on the FBI and if you really want to understand how that agency operated, his sources are invaluable. Beyond that there are individual document collections and actual personal materials relating to a host of long time researchers in both the Harold Weisberg Digital Collection and the Baylor University Library of JFK Materials at the Poage Legislative Library of Baylor University.

In short, it’s easy to claim that the government never tells us the real story or whine about not knowing how things really happen. But to do so without realizing the scope of how much real information is released and available is a bit hypocritical….at least in my view

Crisis Response

One of the most challenging tasks in research is the detection of anomalies. Anomalies are key to everything from market research to solving crimes. The search for anomalies can be really lively and fast paced if you see it in the movies or on TV. Watching a NCIS analyst with a universe of data available at the stroke of a keyboard and a room sized monitor to display it all is exhilarating for any researcher. Those of us who dig into historical events, some decades old, find the process to be a good deal slower, requiring more patience than technology.
Still, if you dig long enough and broadly enough you can get a view as to what is normal and what is abnormal, translated to what is anomalous/suspicious. I spent years studying the behavior of government authorities on November 22, 2963 – with the goal of isolating evidence of prior knowledge or conspiracy in the President’s murder. But it really wasn’t until I was deep into the work on Surprise Attack that I began to really develop a feel for what is SOP in any national security crisis – and especially what Lyndon Johnson’s normal response was to any crisis.
As it turns out, the first thing that any President seems to turn to (from LBJ on Nov. 22, 1963 to GWB on 9/11) is messaging – creating an image of control to reassure the public. Perhaps it’s because they are political personalities by nature but the fact is that they seem to immediately turn to calls to personal calls, speech writing and political agendas rather than actually assuming their national security role as Commander in Chief.
There also seems to be an instinctive desire to mesh the crisis into their own priorities. You see that in LBJ’s decision to order major air attacks on North Vietnam during the Tonkin Gulf incident – even when the military commanders on the scene were cautioning him that the first reports of an attack on the American destroyers were wrong. You see it again when he actually called back the aircraft dispatched to defend the Liberty from an ongoing attack by Israeli forces. And we now know that GWB’s first response after the 9/11 attacks was to work on a speech to the nation and then begin pushing his staff to find a connection to Iraq and Saddam Hussein.
Initially I thought Johnson’s actions at Parkland and on board Air Force 1 were so dysfunctional and lacking as to be suspicious. Unfortunately, in view of 60 years of Presidential behavior (with the exception of Truman and Kennedy) they turn out not to be anomalous but typical – which obviously illustrates a major weakness in the concept of civilian command and control. It’s hard to fathom that when Eisenhower was told of an incoming Soviet air strike that he did nothing more than continue with his scheduled meetings, leaving the matter solely to a military response.
What seems to follow after the President’s retreat to politics is a general administrative effort towards what I would call “minimization”, controlling information and communications in the interest of preventing panic. This often leads to some pretty ridiculous statements, and in the case of crimes such as the shooting of JFK or MLK, to “solving the case” in the first 24 or 48 hours, certainly well before any comprehensive investigation would be possible. At first that seems irresponsible but perhaps not as much as we would think. After all, if a conspiracy is in play, there may well be follow on attacks or even attacks actually in progress. When you are actively engaged in trying to figure that out, or if you have solid leads and are already moving on them – you don’t give away information. I’m not saying I like it, but it is standard practice, with some justification.
Of course if you hold to the minimalist story well after you know better, that becomes a real problem and seriously undermines credibility. So why does it happen over and over again, my thought is that because once any administration acknowledges to the public that they are never going to give them the real story up front it’s a political death warrant. That sort of thing is standard procedure in military and intelligence operations – in anything related to national security actually – but it just does not translate to the transparency that any administration would like to admit to, regardless of party.
But things get worse than that; it appears that in many instances – when actual leadership mistakes have been made – that intentional cover up becomes SOP. Now if you read Shadow Warfare you have seen many examples of that in covert operations, where it is endemic. The examples explored in Surprise Attack range of decades of military and terror attacks, with no sign that either political party is immune – the most egregious examples of actual cover up may have occurred during the LBJ and GWB administrations. Perhaps the most egregious being the suppression of NSA information related to the Gulf of Tonkin incidents, which led to years of combat in SE Asia.
In short, failures in crisis response and management at the Presidential level turn out to be more the rule than the exception. I started out looking for anomalies in crisis response which might reveal suspicious behavior, what Surprise Attack reveals may actually be something far more dangerous.