Thursday, June 9, 2011

Art of War and Art of Politics


A recent news headline reads: “Bin Laden documents sharpen US aim.” It then proceeds to tell us blow by blow how the FBI – CIA is processing the captured information from the Bin Laden raid: “The new information is the result of five weeks of round-the-clock work by a CIA, in real time-led team of data analysts, cyber experts and translators who are 95 percent finished decrypting and translating the years of material and expect to complete the effort by mid-June, two U.S. officials say.”

The news report also inform us what was discovered: “A law enforcement official briefed on the process said investigators have been analyzing raw digital data found on multiple hard drives and flash drives, and that some of it consists of sequences of numbers. Investigators were trying to discern potential bank account or phone numbers that might point to al-Qaida contacts in the United States or elsewhere, or codes that could produce other leads, said the official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the analysis and spoke on condition of anonymity.Especially useful in the communications between bin Laden and his followers from Asia to Europe to Africa is the light they shed on the personalities of known al-Qaida operatives and what drives the various terrorist commanders who corresponded with bin Laden, officials said..” “(Bin Laden documents sharpen US aim,” AP June 8, 2010.

All in all it makes for interesting reading. Like a James Bond movie.

The feeling I got, as a citizen – reader, is that: (1) We are winning the war against al Qaida (AQ). (US IS WINNING. AQ IS LOSING.) (2) Our government is really working hard to protect us from another attack. (CIA-FBI IS WORKING HARD.) After I read many of the comments (851 comments, as of 6.48 am, June 9, CT), I found that most people feel that way. (“This is just fantastic . While I am sorry they could not take the creep alive at least the SEALS brought back what may become worth more than gold . Againg my complements to the professionalism of the SEALS . All thier training and the risks they took may very well save thousands of lives and not in this country alone !)

Then it suddenly dawn on me that such disclosures of intelligence gathering is penny wise pound foolish:

Why do we tell our enemy what the source and method, ways and means, in this terror fight? More importantly, what are we trying to achieve? (“For those of you who think they're divulging too much info...maybe this isn't even a fraction of what they actually know. Just relax, the top Al Qaeda members are going to start dropping like flies, just watch.”)


As a citizen I am for freedom of inform (FI) to a fault. Transparency helps with public decision making. Transparency is a check on abuses. No democratic nation can do without. The more information the merrier.

As a legal aid lawyer, time and again, I mounted FOIA suits against the government for with holding public information.

As a professor, I have written about, and condemned, the Bush-Cheney as one of most secretive administrations in US history (Impact of USA Patriot Act on American Society (2008).

As a police commander, I am for secrecy of military operations, to a fault. Sun Tzu (722–481 BC), the greatest war strategist in China, wrote the classics THE ART OF WAR, now a required reading at West Point, called for secrecy in military operations. (McNeilly, Mark R., Sun Tzu and the Art of Modern Warfare, (Oxford University Press (2001).

Sun said “知彼知己, 百戰不殆, 不知彼而知己, 一勝一負, 不知彼, 不知己, 每戰必殆 “ (“It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.”)

In this the Bush administration got it right. Keep your enemy guessing. Bush imposed total blackout of investigation, arrest and detention of terror suspects after 9/11. (“Ten days after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Chief Immigration Judge Michael Creppy issued a memo to all immigration judges requiring them to close proceedings to the public and press whenever the Justice Department advised them to do so. The order was challenged in two lawsuits, which came to opposite conclusions.”

I do not agree with Bush on many issues, especially the use of 9/11 for political gain (expose of a CIA agent, but I support President Bush’s decision to keep information out of the hands of would be terrorists, bent on attacking USA.

In fighting terror (or any other war) secrecy is the golden rule.


If information is so important in fighting – winning (terror) war, why is it that the Obama administration is conducting a public briefing in prime time on the Bin Laden documentary – intelligence finds? Part of the answer might be that President is a true believer of FI. I have little doubt on this.

But I am equally convinced that the bigger reason is for President Obama to show off his military – anti-terror achievements for political gain, i.e. to enhance his election prospect. (In this regard, we can also ask about timing of Bin Laden execution.)

If indeed the President Obama is motivated by making himself looks good in the public eyes as a fierce, unrelenting and effective terror fighter, at the expense of national security, then he is not doing his job in keeping the nation save. (I like Obama, and still do.)

My research shows that coincidentally, the Bush administration has also done the same thing – politicizing the war on terror. President Bush – Cheney has raised the color coded terror warning signals a number of times, whenever it is to their advantage, politically, e.g., renewal of USA Patriot Act. appointments of intelligence staff, or in election year.


Sir Robert Peel, father of modern policing, was once asked. How do we know that police are doing their job. Peel replied, famously: “The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.”

The less we hear about CIA – FBI – Navy Seal, the better for the nation.

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