Enough about me…Let’s talk about you. What do you think of me?
Have you ever used that line before? I have, in college that was the running joke between me and my friends. When someone started to think too highly of themselves, they would get the line in a mocking manner. Believe it or not, sometimes I was the recipient of the mocking joke.
I am wondering if it can still work as a punch line, or if it is a statement on society today. Somehow, we have become obsessed with ourselves. Impressed with our own phony accomplishments or when we are unable to muster anything resembling a success we find someone else to denigrate. Today, it is not only generally accepted that you can say anything about anyone as long as you look good on TV while doing it. Even if you don’t look good on TV, you can still say anything you want as long as you do it with confidence.
Not only can you say anything you want, you don’t even have to be accurate with your facts. Just make things up because if you say enough things, no one is ever going to remember what you said. So really nothing matters anymore, especially not the facts. Today we live in the world of opinion. I am actually good with opinion; the fact that I am writing this is an example of my openness to different opinions. But in the world we live in, where news travels at the speed of live. How can anyone keep up with the facts? It is impossible, so why try?
If you don’t know what I am talking about, go back into ancient history. Three days ago, all the way back to Tuesday June 11th 2013. That morning, the sports talk shows were all about LeBron James, guiding his team towards a second consecutive NBA Championship. That afternoon, Tim Tebow was signed by the New England Patriots. At first thought, LeBron and Tim have nothing in common. But on Wednesday morning the conservation about these men were exactly the same. The sports commentators ripped both of them all morning because LeBron’s team lost a game and Tim because he can’t throw a pass. Yes that last sentence is absolutely accurate, but these commentators took those simple facts and built a case against each man that an uninformed citizen would assume these guys are two of the worst people in their respective sports. The sports talk people everywhere are out of control, it is no longer about the sports, it is all about creating drama much the way that reality TV does. It feels fake, scripted and phony.
Last week a major news story broke about the NSA spying program. I have my thoughts about the program, but I will save that for another day. I would like to focus on the leaker, Edward Snowden. In some circles, Mr. Snowden is an American Hero. In other circles, he is a traitor. Again, I will withhold my opinion because I do not think there are enough facts to make an informed decision. I will say this about him, he picked a poor way to demonstrate his objections to the information he collected. In the military, I was placed in a command position. There was a responsibility that went along with that position. When a person works with above Top Secret information, they have a responsibility to keep that information safe. When dealing with that level of secrecy, you only get a small section of the puzzle.
Allow me to explain, when I was briefed on classified information. I expected to see it in the news within a couple of days. It is generally something we don’t want the enemy to know, but they probably know it anyway. When something was SECRET, it is something that everyone who wants to be someone knows. This is the information that the politicians know about. Information they spread among their staff and Washington elite media, so they can impress those who want to be impressed. Many times, I would see it in the news but often it was days, weeks, or months after the event. TOP SECRET is the important stuff, like names, places, big deal stuff. This is the type of information that Mr. Snowden gave out. The thing about this is it usually works in conjunction with other TOP SECRET stuff. This is known as compartmentalization.
An example would be if there was a new collection platform (ship) for the Navy. They would make everything TOP SECRET (TS) and then you make it Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI). That means you have a chance to keep it a real secret. So the entire project is considered TS/SCI. Then you make the ship’s name TS/SCI, you make the contract to refit the ship TS/SCI, you make the contractor TS/SCI, you make the names of the ship’s crew TS/SCI and so on. Every important detail has its own TS classification and only a certain number of people are allowed to know the details of that specific project. They probably have no idea about the details of the other aspects of the project. If someone like Mr. Snowden revels one piece of the puzzle, they only have a small part of the picture and the damage they can do is hopefully limited. That is the danger of what Mr. Snowden did. He told about a part of the picture. It is possible that an enemy country might be the missing this piece of the puzzle. Now they have the full picture, and the system is in danger. That is why this is a big deal to the Government.
In 1968, a real life drama played out and I have become acquainted with man who had a front row seat. Mr. Allen Hemphill is a former Naval Officer who served as a Submariner during the 1960s. Mr. Hemphill served with Commander Pete Bucher in attack submarines. Commander Bucher eventually because the Captain of the USS Pueblo. The Pueblo was an essentially unarmed spy ship that was attacked and captured in 1968 by the North Koreans.
Mr. Hemphill tells about his role in the story much better than I ever could. In his words from the site: http://www.usspueblo.org/
By Allen Hemphill (editor’s note: Allen Hemphill is a US Naval Academy graduate. He was a career Naval Officer)
Jean and I had known Pete and Rose Bucher since I had served under Pete on the U.S.S. Ronquil (SS-396.) He had been the XO, and I was one of his five or six officers. We had kept in touch over the years, and I visited with Pete and Rose in Yokosuka when Pete ran covert ops for submarines in the Pacific. Jean and I had been invited to his Change of Command when he took the Command of the USS Pueblo in Bremerton, but we were unable to attend because of a heavy work schedule. At the time I was Project officer for the Integrated Flagship Data System, an early Command Control and Communications computer system under development at what was then the Naval Electronics Laboratory Center on Point Loma in San Diego.
On January 23, 1968, at about 8 a.m. I was called by Jean and told that the Pueblo had been captured. I was scheduled to make a Department Head presentation at 9 a.m, and it was one of the most perfunctory presentations ever made. I went immediately to the Bahia Hotel on Mission Bay where Jean had told me Rose had been living while she awaited transportation to Yokosuka to join Pete.
Her hotel room was chaotic, with perhaps 20 video cameras and newsmen outside. I asked Rose what I could do, and she said, “Take care of the press. Walter Cronkite is out there.” The first few days were a blur. The Public Affairs Officer assigned to be Rose’s liaison with the press made many excuses why he could not even meet with her for several days. He was “fired” by the Navy on about the third day and I was permitted to act on her behalf with the agreement that I would identify myself as a “friend of the family” and not as a representative of the U.S. Navy. In return the Navy agreed not to give me directions, an agreement the Navy kept even if some senior officers did not.
Subsequently, we formed the Remember the Pueblo campaign with the assistance of Barbara Norris of Pro-America in La Jolla, and agreed to lay low for a month while the State Department was engaged in what they described as “sensitive negotiations.” During this period we were bombarded with pleas from widows and children of Korean POWs to mount a vigorous campaign for the release of the Pueblo crew. These people told us that they had been urged by the State Department to “keep quiet, while sensitive negotiations” were taking place, but that their loved ones had never been heard of again. After a year or more of silence they tried to get media attention, only to be told that “it is old news.” We determined not to let the seizure of the Pueblo crew slip unnoticed from the public.
For the next year, with the complete support of my immediate superior, Cdr. Vern Wear we mounted an amateur but vigorous public relations campaign. I wrote speeches and did press relations, my wife Jean made more than 70 public speeches, and Rose did all radio and TV appearances.
Cdr. Wear had invented the computer system I was managing, and he did both his job and mine while I traveled with Jean and Rose. Support for our efforts in the Navy was covert, including Commander First Fleet, Vice Admiral Bernie Roeder. Opposition was much more vocal, including the Commandant of the 11th Naval District in which I served.
Efforts to break up our team were attempted, including orders assigning me to Keflavic, Iceland &SHY; and failing that, to lure me away by offering me an assignment as Navigation Officer on the Second Fleet Flagship. All efforts were rebuffed, but with a personal warning to Jean and Rose by the Chief of Staff of CNO that if I would not accept the Second Fleet position that my Naval career was finished. Vice-Admiral Roeder attempted to have me assigned to his Flag Staff, and his request was refused. As he told me, “When a personal request from a Vice-Admiral is denied, we are playing in the big leagues!”
Details of the year-long adventure are being written from logs, contemporary diaries, media clips, and covertly recorded telephone conversations. Excerpts may soon be available on this site.”
I marvel at the loyalty that Mr. Hemphill displayed to his former Commander, friend and to the family up to and including disobeying transfer orders, promotion and other forms of manipulation. Compare Mr. Hemphill action to the actions of Mr. Snowden, and I think we can all agree that one of them is a true American. This is how a single man can change the military from within. His example is a beacon of light for everyone who has issues with the Government. When I started writing this blog, I hoped to make new acquaintances in the world. That has certainly been a fact, but I am most honored to meet real American Heroes like Mr. Hemphill. If you want to know more about Mr. Hemphill, you can check out his blog at this site: http://usna1957.wordpress.com/
One last point, compare the actions of Mr. Snowden and CMD Bucher. Snowden took everything he could find and ran into the arms of a foreign government. CMD Bucher was placed in a bad position, without proper training and endured real torture at the hands of a foreign government. He was forced to endure a mock execution, threatened with the execution of his crew and literally tortured. When he returned, he was treated as a criminal and a failure by the US Navy. In reality, he and the men of the USS Pueblo are all undisputed heroes. Mr. Snowden’s status is not as clear.
As an aside, I am going to take next week off from the blog. My family has some life events upcoming that will require my full attention. Don’t get worried, all is well. I hope to be back from life sometime on the week of the 24th. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. Stay safe and keep on rocking!
From → military