Who is Kenneth deGraffenried?

Seymour Hersh, who was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for international reporting for his expose of the My Lai massacre and its cover-up during the Viet Nam war, is a formidable figure in the world of big media journalism. He is reported to be an extraordinarily difficult man whose career has had its share of awkward moments and rough patches.

In his most recent article for The New Yorker magazine, a piece titled “The Gray Zone,” Hersh exposes a super secret program called Copper Green that got out of control and led to the “prisoner abuse” scandal at Abu Ghraib. One paragraph caught my attention because in it Hersh mentions the name of a distant relative, Kenneth deGraffenried.

The paragraph describes, without comment, “a bureaucratic battle within the Pentagon.” It was a battle in which Donald Rumsfeld’s trusted aide, Stephen Cambone, now Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, wrested “control of all special-access programs that were relevant to the war on terror” from Kenneth deGraffenried. What Hersh fails to mention is that Kenneth deGraffenried is, or was, a bona fide member of the Neoconservative cabal that controls the Bush administration’s catastrophic foreign policy.

A Google search for “Kenneth deGraffenried” turns up only one relevant reference. The Fellowship Programs page of the web site for The Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies (IASPS), lists Mr. deGraffenried as one of two instructors on Intelligence for the Institute’s Strategic Fellowship’s for 2002-2003, and a “former Senior Director of Intelligence Program, National Security Council (subjects – intelligence, national security).” IASPS is an organization dedicated to the Neoconservative philosophy and cause, so much and so explicitly so that the Instintue’s Strategic Fellowship Overview advises potential applicants that, “Only those who demonstrate a familiarity with the problems of modern social science and the nation state as these are raised in the work of Leo Strauss, Eric Voegelin and others reaching back to Plato and Aristotle will be of interest to this program.” Strauss, of course, is the guiding star in the Neoconservative firmament. IASPS has a Hebrew language site.

This is not the first time Kenneth deGraffenried’s name has been revealed in the glare of scandal. I can still recall my surprise when, during the Iran-Contra hearings many years ago, Lt. Col. Oliver North was asked where he got the documents he and his secretary, Fawn Hall, so famously shreded. North testified that when he determined it was time for certain documents to be shredded, he went to and requested them from the civil servant who was responsible for National Security Council’s super secret documents, Mr. deGraffenried, who kept them in his safe. Hersh certainly got one thing right: Kenneth deGraffenried’s experience with the NSC’s super secret programs goes back decades.

Hersh’s article leaves his readers wondering just how acrimonious the battle for “control of special-access programs that were relevant to the war on terror” may have been, and why he didn’t find it necessary to point out that this particular bureaucratic battle, seen in the light of Kenneth deGraffenried’s credentials as a bona fide Neocon, seems to suggest that all was not (and is not) well within the bosom of the Neoconservative beast, that raw careerism and petty infighting over control of some of the intelligence community’s most secret black-ops programs may have contributed directly to a deeply flawed decision-making process that resulted in torture at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere and the still unfolding scandal that is rocking the Bush administration.

When Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman interviewed Seymour Hersh yesterday, she specifically asked the renowned investigative reporter, “Who is Kenneth deGraffenried?” Perhaps Goodman, like this writer, wondered whether Hersh’s mention of deGraffenried in his expose of the black-ops intelligence program, Copper Green, run amok in Iraq, was as gratuitous as it appeared to be. Hersh’s reply, that deGraffenried was “sort of a bureaucratic loser” sounded like a non-answer to the underlying questions. Why mention deGraffenried and his role in the “bureaucratic battle within the Pentagon” over “control of all special-access programs that were relevant to the war on terror” if deGraffenried was nothing more than “sort of a bureaucratic loser”? And why fail to inform readers, either in the story or in follow-on interviews with reporters like Goodman, that deGraffenried was a Neoconservative insider, rather than an apolitical civil servant forced out by the Neocon cabal? Moreover, does “a bureaucratic loser” rise as a civil service employee to the level of official keeper of the National Security Council’s most secret documents in the Reagan administration and in later administrations become the official monitor of the Pentagon’s super-secret special-access programs, programs that Hersh described as “sacrosanct” until Rumsfeld’s aide Cambone decided to take control over them? Hardly. It is very difficult to imagine that Goodman’s curiosity was misplaced. There is more going on here than Hersh is telling. And why did Hersh raise these questions in the first place? Stay tuned.