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The Company We Sadly Keep

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

~ Upton Sinclair

A triple-threat epidemic is sweeping the land—not just some deadly virus, water-born disease, or auto-immune reactions to toxins, although those too plague us—but of secrecy, unaccountability, and impunity, bypassing checks and balances, impervious to any outside scrutiny or supervision. This cancer on the Republic has metastasized throughout halls of power and workplaces almost everywhere.

In the private sector, when you sign on as an “exempt” employee (mostly meaning you get paid a fixed annual salary without union or overtime), you may be required to agree to:

+ Have your communications, even keystrokes, monitored

+ Company-arranged arbitration in the event of a dispute

+ Be dismissed for any violation of company policies

+ Possibly take a drug test and/or a personality test

+ Hold the company blameless for any grievance against a fellow employee

+ Not work for any company offering similar products or services for some period of time.

That is to say, we make the rules here, and what happens in the company stays in the company. It’s no one else’s business how or why they’re applied.

It gets worse. Let’s say you separate from the company on bad terms, having been harassed or blocked from advancing or doing your job, or because you were the wrong age, sex or race, or just weren’t sufficiently docile. If you take it upstairs, file a grievance, or hire a lawyer, eventually you may be offered a sum to settle the matter. In return, you must agree not to disclose terms of settlement or publically allege abuse or misconduct. As we’ve been told, whatever Ailes, O’Reilly, and Weinstein affairs were “resolved” involved no admissions of culpability and gagging and binding the plaintiffs. Impervious to decency, justice, or shame, they have you by the gonads. Proving that you were wronged and then obtaining justice is a long, agonizing, and expensive process. Most people have better things to do with their time and money, something employers bank on.

Depending on where you work and what you do, it can get much, much worse. If you work for the federal government directly, as a contractor or an employee thereof, as a condition of employment you may be asked to sign a secrecy agreement, an offer you can’t refuse and an oath you cannot later renege. Such paper handcuffs first flowered in the idyllic 1950s, that post-war paradise of Leave-It-to-Beaver families in spanking new suburbs and lifetime jobs in unionized workplaces. To forestall leaks, spy agencies exacted them from employees who knew or might know state secrets. The higher the classification of content involved, the more draconian were the potential consequences for disclosure.

Secrecy agreements are confidentiality agreements on steroids. Ironclad. Undoable. Not availing of congressional or judicial redress. And should you pester an I.G. with documentation of the organization’s illegal, harmful, or unconstitutional activities, any evidence you present on your behalf is likely to vanish from public scrutiny forever. It’s all set up so you can’t refuse and they can never lose. Item 8 of the standard Federal secrecy agreement (Standard Form 312; there are others) states “Unless and until I am released in writing by an authorized representative of the United States Government, I understand that all conditions and obligations imposed upon me by this Agreement apply during the time I am granted access to classified information, and at all times thereafter.” (emphasis added). It also advises “nothing in this Agreement constitutes a waiver by the United States of the right to prosecute me for any statutory violation.”

The statutes cited are sections 641, 793, 794, 798, 952 and 1924, title 18, United States Code; the provisions of section 783(b}, title 50, United States Code; and the provisions of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982. Also noted is section 4(b) of the infamous Subversive Activities Control Act of 1950 (the McCarran Act), which has ruined many lives. After Harry Truman vetoed it (calling it “the greatest danger to freedom of speech, press, and assembly since the Alien and Sedition Laws of 1798,” a “mockery of the Bill of Rights” and a “long step toward totalitarianism,”) Congress overrode the veto 286-48 and 57-10. Where were all the other lawmakers that fine September day, one might ask? Burning their ACLU membership cards?

* * *

Fast-forward to now, and hundreds of thousands if not millions of workers have been coerced into signing secrecy agreements. Artfully, from Allen Dulles on, the capos and consiglieres of the security state insinuated their racket into military and civilian agencies plus their assignees and contractors. Expanding their territory, of course, multiplied the number of government workers privy to their activities. Given that any of these people might be inclined or induced to reveal mob activities, how to silence them? Simple; bind their lips as soon as they get involved with secrecy agreements. If any balk at that, use subtle means of persuasion like reassigning them to the boondocks, skipping them over for promotion, or threatening to have their heads examined.

Former high-ranking CIA analyst and covert operative Kevin Shipp came forward in 2010 with details on the shadow government of the deep state that intelligence agencies control, and how they manage to control Congress as well. A summary of Shipp’s recent presentation at a Geoengineering Watch assembly in ZeroHedge states:

… that there are “over 10,000 secret sites in the U.S.” that formed after 9/11. There are “1,271 secret government agencies, 1,931 large private corporations [involved with the spy agencies] and over 4,800,000 Americans that he knows of who have a secrecy clearance, and 854,000 who have Top Secret clearance, explaining they signed their lives away bound by an agreement.

What turned Shipp into a transparency activist, of all things, was toxic mold in a house the CIA put him and his family into while on assignment at Camp Stanley, an Army weapons depot near San Antonio. As detailed in a 2011 NYT story, the Phippses filed a wrongful harm lawsuit against the Agency that they predictably lost, and not long afterward he was drummed out after 25 years of service. Shipp claims that his phone and house continue to be bugged and he is constantly followed when driving. (Incidentally, the only other NYT story to mention Mr. Shipp came in 2014. It identified Camp Stanley as a major CIA weapons depot that had supplied arms and ammunition for the Bay of Pigs and other CIA terrorist operations. More recently, it said, “the Army sought to purchase two million rounds of ammunition of the caliber that fits AK-47 rifles, which American soldiers do not use. The delivery address: Camp Stanley.”)

* * *

One would think that out of all the ears and eyeballs privy to dicey classified programs more lips might loosen. But any insider bent on exposing misdeeds will soon find out that whistleblower protections are a farce; complaining about illegal activities to elected representatives or an I.G. can lead to harassment that can last for the rest of one’s life. In whistleblower lawsuits, the government can invoke the non-statutory State Secrets Privilege (I would call it the Secret State Privilege) to exclude evidence or dismiss the complaint entirely, and has done so about once a year since 1953. For more ugly details about how the Secret State silences whistleblowers, see Shipp’s communique to Geoengineering Watch two years ago.

As a further deterrent to truth-telling, Obama’s 2011 Executive order 13587 tasked all Federal agencies and associated contractors with implementing Insider Threat Programs (ITP) to identify, monitor, and profile potential leakers of secret information. TechDirt reported that when Senator Chuck Grassley asked the head of the ITP whether the program protects whistleblowers, he was assured that it does; to avoid being swept up, they simply need to “register” before blowing. I can hear it now: “Oh sure, Mr. Snowden, go right ahead. We’re sure you mean no harm.”

The Secret State (or as Shipp calls it, the Shadow Government) takes such extreme precautions because it needs its activities to remain invisible and deniable. Of course, this is what rulers and regimes have done since time immemorial. And to do this effectively requires a vast panopticon to oversee its minions and identify potential troublemakers, as the USSR’s KGB, East Germany’s Stasi, Turkey’s MIT, Syria’s GID, and many other states’ security agencies have instituted. Thanks to the technology of illicit eavesdropping and cooperative agreements with the likes of ATT and Google, the Internet and mobile networks make this ambitious task a piece of cake.

Aesop said “a man is known by the company he keeps.” CIA people call their agency The Company. Twelve US Presidents have not only kept it, they have allowed it to metastasize into a hideous monstrosity rampaging out of control. Only John F. Kennedy threatened to dismantle it, and look what happened to him.

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Geoff Dutton is a reformed geek turned columnist, novelist, and publisher hailing from Boston who writes about whatever distortions of reality strike his fancy. Turkey Shoot, his novel interrogating the lives and times of members of a cell of terrorists in Europe, recently received an award for Courage in Fiction. You can find more of his writing here and at Progressive Pilgrim Review. He welcomes correspondence at geoff-at-perfidy-dot-press.

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