The Gift of Insight: Review of Classified Woman by Sibel Edmonds and American Sons by Christopher Boyce, Cait Boyce, and Vince Font
by Frederick Ingram
December 24, 2014
What can you give someone who has it all? How about a new perspective. Two recent memoirs lead the reader through amazing, secret places and provide urgent insights into the world of today and tomorrow. These are excellent, topical books that deserve a wider audience.
Such a brilliant and well-spoken analyst as Sibel Edmonds---addressed as “sweet, beautiful, tiny, skinny Sibel” by a creepy supervisor---would shine in a network setting. She does run a website, Boiling Frogs Post, and is a regular on alt-journalism podcasts, where she appears not only well-informed but exceedingly quick on her feet. But mainstream media is not really in the business of truth-telling for its own sake, is it?
Classified Woman is the story of the whistleblowing episode that brought
to the public eye
in a big way. An Iranian-born Turkish American, she was tapped by the FBI after
9/11 to soldier through reams of foreign language transcripts to look for the
sorts of warnings that had been missed. And she found them. Edmonds
Within weeks she reveals the department to be rife with nepotism and worse, easily recognizable to anyone who’s had to slog away under entrenched bureaucrats. An HR issue from hell turns into a harrowing counterintelligence investigation in which
won’t be fully
vindicated for years. The book illuminates the decades-long divergence of
interests between the FBI and the CIA. Edmonds
paid for whistle-blowing enhances her
credibility. She has since found out that many people really do care. But not
enough. I call it “Snowden’s folly.” Edmonds
Like the Classified Woman, “the Falcon” also lights upon the peaks of power in
But the focus of American Sons also
dwells in the lowest of low places, the death valleys. It is another book of
such extremes that it wouldn’t be plausible as fiction: think Forrest Gump
meets Christopher McCandless meets Washington, D.C. Mission
The Falcon is Christopher Boyce, another type of FBI spawn, son of an Irish-American special agent. Convictions for espionage and bank robbery cast him in a morally unflattering light, but he’s been great for literature, inspiring three really excellent books. The first, The Falcon and the Snowman, was made into a great Cold War period film starring Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn; the sequel The Flight of the Falcon, also by Robert Lindsey, was such a classic of the genre that in high school I literally stayed up all night to read it in one sitting. American Sons doesn’t reach that pinnacle, but it flies around it, and the intro is a masterpiece in itself. It is a real triumph for its editorial team, who managed to weave three distinct voices together artfully as a Celtic knot.
As an angry young man at a defense contractor Boyce didn’t have much of a whistle-blowing apparatus in place to vent his grievances. There were only a handful of news outlets in the pre-Internet age. Indeed, 25 years later, Sibel Edmonds rued how she was ignored by all the groups ostensibly set up to help in such matters (though the ACLU did finally take up her case, to great effect). By then the lessons of Jack Anderson and the Pike and Church Committees, still being reported while Boyce was at TRW, had long been forgotten.
An amazing aspect of American Sons is how the future Mrs. Boyce rolled the stones away from the tomb-like cells of both the Falcon and his coconspirator Andrew Daulton Lee a/k/a the “Snowman.” For that matter, she also won a reprieve from her own death sentence, cancer.
Another title besides American Sons would the breadth of these stories better. Like Classified Woman, the book is also a bit one-sided, only mentioning Daulton Lee a couple of times, for example. In contrast, Lindsey’s masterpiece The Flight of the Falcon followed, with nuance and empathy, both the quarry and the
U.S. hunting him.
But it was a rather long book. I do appreciate, though, a good, clear sight line,
from whatever angle. Marshalls
Declassified cables and archived presidential correspondence reveal new details about these years. Boyce never heard George H.W. Bush, Henry Kissinger, and Donald Rumsfeld sighing, in President Gerald Ford’s office, about how much more effective they would be at taking care of such spies than the ethics-bound Justice Department. While Boyce and Lee were traipsing about with the Soviets in
City, did they have any inkling of the deadly, dirty covert war
being waged throughout Latin America?
The forms and patterns
“Great Game” regime change today aren’t new. The Dickerson-Chicago scandal
mirrors Reagan-North Iran-Contra and Helms-Hamrick in Edmonds Latin
America, and other intrigues that revolted Boyce as an
impressionable, idealistic young rebel. The politicians and private foundations
fund the hitmen of the world, while largely obedient journalists dutifully
package outrage or whatever desired public opinion like Christmas presents.
Is the real truth even knowable any more? If such secret history isn’t even discoverable, doesn’t that make us a nation of ignoramuses? Is that what the Founding Fathers intended?
“Justice” is political. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. (Consider the CIA-launched careers of Osama bin-Laden or Saddam Hussein, for a start.) Spy agencies hunt and kill political enemies. How many unsolved homicides are the result of such operations? That’s why they are covert. Plausible deniability. Unaccountability. Otherwise, the Bushes of the world would have been locked up long ago.
Selling influence---and information---has long been a lucrative sideline for politicians since the days of Jesse Helms (who was never prosecuted for selling secrets to Pinochet). You can hide a lot behind a big flag.
Secret courts and the like are among the exact same abuses the Founding Fathers warned about. Anything can be misused. That’s why we, the people, need accountability. And we are not getting it from either the congress or the media.
Dungeons, congressional chambers, intelligence services. Someone needs to shine light into these dark places, for the good of the Republic and of humanity at large. For the sake of history. These tales, brought to you at great cost, do just that.