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The Next Victim in the US Government’s War on Whistleblowing

(update below)

The Pentagon is now “investigating” and going after Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, who submitted an 86-page report with classified information to Congress on the war in Afghanistan. He also wrote an unclassified version of the report that he is waiting for Army Public Affairs to review so that he can release it to the public.

Some aspects of the report were shared in an article published by the Armed Forces Journal. He criticized the “credibility gap,” how official statements do not match what is actually happening on the ground. He shared some anecdotes on how the Afghanistan war has gone from “bad to abysmal.” For example:

On Sept. 11, the 10th anniversary of the infamous attack on the U.S., I visited another unit in Kunar province, this one near the town of Asmar. I talked with the local official who served as the cultural adviser to the U.S. commander. Here’s how the conversation went:

Davis: “Here you have many units of the Afghan National Security Forces [ANSF]. Will they be able to hold out against the Taliban when U.S. troops leave this area?”

Adviser: “No. They are definitely not capable. Already all across this region [many elements of] the security forces have made deals with the Taliban. [The ANSF] won’t shoot at the Taliban, and the Taliban won’t shoot them.

“Also, when a Taliban member is arrested, he is soon released with no action taken against him. So when the Taliban returns [when the Americans leave after 2014], so too go the jobs, especially for everyone like me who has worked with the coalition.

The report has forced the Pentagon to make official statements downplaying it. The lackey they have trotted out to minimize the contents of Davis’ report to Congress, Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparotti, the “No. 2 US Commander in Afghanistan,” has tried to reassure the public that there truly has been “significant” and “steady progress,” despite what Davis might be saying.

After a couple days of Scaparotti fielding press interest in Davis’ report, the Pentagon is moving to the next phase, which involves having unnamed officials make anonymous statements to the press about Davis and his report. NBC News chief Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski has chosen to enable the sleazy officials tasked with launching a smear campaign. Miklaszewski writes:

Additionally, Pentagon and military officials claim that two years ago while he was stationed in Germany, Davis wrote a letter to Petraeus, advising Petraeus on how to fight and win a war against Iran. The officials say Davis also asked Petraeus to help him skip a rank and get promoted to brigadier general so he could help shape the strategy for a war against Iran.

This is pure fabrication, but, of course, a Pentagon correspondent isn’t questioning these statements. That might make it harder to get quotes from these officials for a future story that may or may not involve spreading more disinformation.

Michael Hastings, author of The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan, knows full well what the spin doctors of the Pentagon have prepared for Davis.

He reports on Twitter:

As Hastings explores in his excellent book, the Pentagon aims to “co-opt” the media before, during and after every war. It, therefore, should come as no surprise that, even when barely a third of Americans support the war in Afghanistan, there are reporters willing to help defame people like Davis.

Davis appeared on “The Alyona Show” earlier in the week. Matthew Hoh, an ex-State Department official who resigned over the war in Afghanistan, appeared with him. He explained:

I’m worried for Danny. I mean, he’s putting his career on the line. It’s not like he’s eligible to retire next week. I mean, he’s got a few years left. And we have seen—You know, during the break, you brought up Thomas Drake, the NSA employee, who blew the whistle and they persecuted for years. Thomas Tamm, the Justice Department lawyer, who blew the whistle on the warrantless wiretapping. He had to undergo an investigation that took four/five years. So, I’m afraid the same will happen to Danny, where because he provided classified information to Congress.

Hoh made clear he had a right to submit a classified report to Congress. He followed all the regulations. But, “It’s easy to start a witch hunt. It’s easy to investigate him to make sure he crossed all the t’s and dotted all the i’s.”

Davis knows that he could be in trouble. You could tell when you watched him on “The Alyona Show” that he was just waiting for the Pentagon to move on him. He even told The Independent some time this week that he is going to get “nuked” for revealing military failures in Afghanistan.

So, why did he do it? Why did he decide to put his career on the line? Is he a traitor? Does he want to help the Taliban win the war in Afghanistan by supporting a misinformed report to Congress? Is he ready to indiscriminately release information that he harvested while in Afghanistan so that America cannot achieve victory?

What he said on “The Alyona Show” was this:

I could not morally allow myself to just say, ‘You know what, don’t say anything. Just finish out your career quietly and no problem,’ knowing there are men that go outside the wire every day, who don’t get that opportunity. And they are going to risk their life every day to do the very best they can to accomplish this mission. And, I think we owe them to tell the truth about what’s going on so that if we send them out there it better be for a darn good reason.

Davis is nothing but a man with conscience and integrity who happens to be serving in the military and think that US military generals are being disingenuous. He believes military leaders are misleading the public on what is happening and, as they make up stories of progress, soldiers are dying.

Davis has witnessed firsthand how truth is the first casualty of war and he is standing up for low-level soldiers. This is who is going to be targeted—someone who appears to have the kind of decency and forthrightness that you would want someone of Davis’ stature to possess.

This is who is likely the eighth whistleblower to fall victim to the Obama Administration’s war on whistleblowing. [The previous seven whistleblowers being: Shamai Leibowitz, Jeffrey Sterling, Thomas Drake, Pfc. Bradley Manning, Stephen Kim, Peter Van Buren and John Kiriakou.]

(*Note: Michael Hastings will be doing a Book Salon here at Firedoglake on his book The Operators at 5 pm EST on Sunday, February 12. Hastings will likely discuss recent developments related to Lt. Col. Davis’ report.)


Stars & Stripes’ Bill Murphy Jr. reflects on what might be the response to Davis. The response includes this quote:

“The advice to them is that bureaucracies do not like dissidents and whistleblowers,” said retired Lt. Col. Douglas Ollivant, now a senior national security studies fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington. “There is very little you can do to change that. … I don’t think this is specific to the military.”

For what it’s worth, Davis contends that the Army has pledged to not take any “adverse actions.” He says he is not to lose his position or security clearance or “the so-called typical punishments for people that do this kind of thing.” That he thought ahead of submitting a report to Congress he would become a government target says a lot about how the US government handles people who step out to tell the truth.

Nobody wants anything to happen to Davis. I certainly do not want Davis to be a seventh victim. But, if the Pentagon can, they will go after him for questioning the generals running this war.

Update 2

I have updated the article at about 3:30 pm ET on February 10 to reflect the fact that Davis would not be the seventh high-profile person to fall victim to the war on whistleblowing. He would be the eighth because Peter Van Buren, who worked for the State Department, is being monitored and investigated currently for a book he wrote, We Meant Well.

Yesterday, Van Buren published an article called the “Silent State” on the Washington campaign to silence whistleblowers. He described his situation:

I am told that, in its 223 years of existence, I am the only Foreign Service Officer ever to have written a critical book about the State Department while still employed there. We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People exposed what State did not want people to know: that they had wasted enormous amounts of money in Iraq, mostly due to ignorance and a desire for short-term successes that could be trumpeted back home. For the crime of writing this book and maintaining a blog that occasionally embarrasses, State Department officials destroyed my career, even as they confirm my thesis, and their own failure, by reducing the Baghdad Embassy to half its size in the face of Iraq’s unraveling.


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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."