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Colley: Guns and bias

Staff Sgt. William Colley was insubordinate while on a troop transport sailing for Europe. He and the other men in his unit were sightseeing when officers approached. There would be no free cruise on the Atlantic. The men were told they would earn their voyage and were issued mops and buckets. When the officers departed, the soldiers jettisoned overboard their new tools. When the officers returned and demanded to know why the decks hadn’t been swabbed with the mops a wise guy replied, “What mops?” A valuable lesson about riding herd was learned by some leaders of the U.S. military. Despite the improvisation of the ranks, the unit went on to serve with honor and often distinction.

Evidence people needn’t be constantly governed, monitored and regulated. These were men trained for warfare and housekeeping wasn’t on their list. I was thinking about the story my dad shared with me at least 40 years ago while I was shaving and showering Saturday morning. As usual I was out of bed early but on a day off from work. I spent most of Saturday morning in a classroom as a police officer and a firearms instructor explained firearms safety and law. After noon, we put ammunition on targets. This is the class required if you desire an enhanced carry permit. I’ve been telling my friend, Todd Eccles from Patriot Defense, I would take his course. After months of delays, a sunny day in May hit the sweet spot. I’ll share an equal number of women as men were taking the course. Ages varied from a young fellow in his 20s up to retirees. My impression is the people I met were all responsible citizens. Along with safety there was another thread common throughout the day: a belief the media is hostile to firearms, gun owners and the Second Amendment. Nobody mentioned TV or radio stations or big-city publications. There is a belief this newspaper would savage any responsible gun owner defending his or her life or the lives of their family members.

I can take much credit for putting logs on the fire of allegations of media bias, but in this instance I’m innocent. On the subject of things that go pop-pop-pop I’ve never mentioned the Times-News in a disparaging manner. Somewhere around 1970 was when I first started reading newspapers on a regular basis. The actual news stories and editorial pages. Until the third grade I had been gazing at the comics, but one day when I was a little boy I asked my dad why he was laughing. He put down the newspaper and pointed at a column. When I started reading Art Buchwald for the humor I quickly started reading Jim Bishop and Paul Harvey too. They weren’t usually funny and sometimes profound in their observations. By the time I was in the fifth grade I was arguing news and politics with grown men at diners. Never once as a kid did I ponder media bias.

In college a friend handed me a book written by conservative fundraiser Richard Viguerie. It was the first time I realized I could read, listen to and watch news and have a critical view of how stories were reported. The columnists I mostly read did sometimes have conservative arguments (Phyllis Schlafly comes to mind) but mostly targeted the political opposition. The 1980s were the dawn of a wider conservative consensus news media was controlled by liberal thinkers. You may have a liberal bias and not even be aware it’s your albatross because as herd animals we often don’t see beyond our pack. What you believe is self-evident truth and anyone you encounter on the range with a different outlook must be deviant, evil and in need of re-education. I’m afraid there won’t be any wider consensus on right and wrong for a very long time. Cultures clash. I’m not aware of many who came to an understanding. Throughout most of human history there are winners and losers. Very few people any longer speak Gaelic. English and England were the victors. Highways, rail lines and bricks dot much of the American West where just 150 years ago tribal cultures were dominant. We can’t compromise on an issue like abortion because pulling apart just half a child will still end the baby’s existence.

What we’ve got today in the United States are many scolds who claim they know better. Like the missionaries of old they’ll smash temples and insist the “other” mend their ways. But it’s not working. People carry guns in this part of the country. Estimates of firearms in private hands in the United States are between 350 and 400 million guns. For all the preaching about the need for more regulations and the cries about mass shootings and accidents it’s simply amazing the figures aren’t much higher. As television philosopher Jesse Watters recently told the liberal Juan Williams, if you go to Idaho you don’t have many shootings of police officers. Or of anyone, for that matter. Chicago is awash in firearms and it’s a different story. Do we need to remind you which political party holds sway and has held sway in the Windy City for a century?

As for the Times-News, I suspect many members of the staff own firearms and use them safely and judiciously. The perception could be related to a previous editor. Or possibly someone who doesn’t like guns in the corporate culture. Or because once you’re viewed as liberal on most issues you’re assigned all liberal values. It’s not fair, although it’s probably well earned.


Mailbag
Letter: History: Realist or revisionist?

Realist or revisionist?

My ancestors fought to preserve the Union and abolish slavery. But, in deference for honest history, I’m disgusted so many remain silent while ill-informed revisionists continue to have statues of Confederate heroes removed from public display. Should truth be held captive by those with big mouths, big opinions, but a tiny understanding of American history? Should historical accuracy be banned for being unpopular? Don’t our children deserve to see and understand our history as it was and not as some group of idealists would like it to have been?

Gen. Beauregard’s statue is gone. But, there were others. Among them were Gens. Nathan Bedford Forrest and Robert E. Lee. Forrest had been a slave trader, which was then an accepted profession throughout the South, he was the much-maligned fall-guy for the Ft. Pillow massacre (although not there), and the first Grand Wizard of the KKK. Few remember, however, that as a slave trader he never broke up families, that when the KKK turned violent he walked out, that after the war he hired black men when other businessmen wouldn’t, or that many black men and women attended his funeral.

And what about Lee, America’s most beloved general — ever? Does anyone care he was not a slaveholder, didn’t believe in slavery, had already served the U.S. in uniform for 32 years, including serving as superintendent of West Point, had been offered command of the Army of the Potomac as war clouds were forming, or that in his most infuriated moments he would refer to Union officers as: “Those people.”

Their statues are disappearing. But Americans could do worse than emulating some of the loyalties, philosophies and conduct of the better of those men who are now being so ignorantly denigrated and tarnished.

William Denham

Twin Falls


Columns
Other view: Leakers who revealed Israel as intelligence source did far more damage than Trump

President Donald Trump has landed in Israel amid controversy over the disclosure that Israel was the source of highly classified intelligence on details of an Islamic State plot he reportedly shared with Russian diplomats—evidence, his critics say, that Trump cannot be trusted with U.S. secrets.

One problem with that: Trump did not reveal to anyone that Israel was the source of the intelligence he shared with the Russians. So how did the New York Times, which broke the news of Israel’s role, find out? According to the Times, its sources were “a current and a former American official familiar with how the United States obtained the information” who “spoke on the condition of anonymity” because they “were not authorized to discuss the matter.” NBC News, meanwhile, reported that it had confirmed the Israeli role “with three government officials with knowledge of the matter.”

Ponder the irony: These geniuses were so appalled by Trump sharing sensitive intelligence with the Russians that they shared even more sensitive intelligence with the media—and thus the entire world—in order to demonstrate that Trump cannot be trusted with sensitive intelligence. In so doing, these leakers possibly did far more damage to U.S. national security—and intelligence-sharing between the United States and Israel—than anything Trump may have revealed to the Russians.

Don’t take my word for it. That is the assessment of John Brennan, Barack Obama’s CIA director, who said last week that “the real damage to national security is ... what was leaked in the aftermath, what was put in the media” adding that “these individuals who still stay within the government and are leaking this stuff to the press need to be brought to task.”

Amen.

The same is true of the initial leak to The Washington Post that Trump had revealed details of the Islamic State plot to the Russians. When The Post broke the story, the paper noted that it was “withholding most plot details, including the name of the city” in the Islamic State’s territory “where the U.S. intelligence partner detected the threat.”

Good for The Post. But how on Earth did The Post learn the plot details? Answer: from “current and former U.S. officials.”

One U.S. official told The Post, with apparent outrage, “This is code-word information ... (Trump) revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”

Hello? Some rocket scientist shared more information with The Post than Trump shared with the Russian ambassador.

The U.S. official is right about one thing: All this intelligence is “code-word information”—highly classified intelligence. And the decision of these anonymous leakers to share code-word intelligence with the media is a crime that did far more damage than Trump’s apparently inadvertent disclosures to the Russians.

How many of those fulminating today about the damage done by the exposure of Israel’s role in collecting intelligence on the Islamic State were similarly outraged when the Obama administration exposed Israel’s role in the “Stuxnet” cyberattack on Iran’s nuclear program? The Times, which broke that story, quoted “members of the president’s national security team who were in the (White House Situation Room)” saying the Israelis were responsible for an error in the code that allowed it to replicate itself all around the world. The Times directly quoted one of the president’s briefers telling him, “We think there was a modification done by the Israelis” and added that President Barack Obama, “according to officials in the room, asked a series of questions, fearful that the code could do damage outside the plant. The answers came back in hedged terms. Mr. Biden fumed. ‘It’s got to be the Israelis,’ he said. ‘They went too far.’ “

How did The Times get that information about Israel’s role in this highly classified covert action program, including the top-secret code name for the program (“Olympic Games”) and the involvement Israel? Answer: A member of Obama’s national security team intentionally exposed intelligence sources and methods. The damage this leak did—both to the operation and the trust between our two countries—was incalculable. So where was the deep concern for the exposure of this intelligence or the involvement of our liaison partner? Where were all the hand-wringers questioning whether Obama could be trusted with highly classified intelligence?

It is time for decisive action to close the sieve of classified intelligence appearing in the press. Doing so will be the job of the next FBI director. One of the advantages of Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein’s decision to appoint Robert S. Mueller III as special counsel in charge of the Russia investigation is that it should free up the next FBI director to focus on finding and prosecuting the leakers. There is no evidence yet of any Trump-Russia collusion. But the evidence that leakers committed crimes is there, in black and white, on the pages of the Times, The Post and other news outlets.

Brennan is right. These leakers need to be brought to task. Because they, not Trump, are the ones who cannot be trusted with sensitive intelligence.