On April 10, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. Army. Today, I feel like the anti-oppressive government protester who, in 1989, stood in front of the tank in Tianenmen Square, refusing to let it pass.
Unlike what transpired more than 23 years ago in China, the Army is the tank today, and I’m the lone protester. Instead of demanding freedom, I’m simply demanding transparency and openness from government officials who appear to be waging a coverup.
Exactly what is it I want from the Army?
In my FOIA request, I asked for a copy of an unclassified handbook, “Inside The Wire Threats — Afghanistan,” published by the Center for Army Lessons Learned at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. It’s the same document Gen. John Allen, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, mentioned during his March 22 testimony on the topic before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
As of today, more than 100 days have passed without a determination as to whether Army officials will provide me with the document. Apparently, Army officials are content to ignore federal statutes that require determinations be made within 20 days — or 30 days if extenuating circumstances exists — of receipt of a FOIA request. They’ve now gone more than 70 days beyond the letter and spirit of the law.
I’m always intrigued when the contents of an unclassified Army document result in government officials displaying a callous disregard for the law. Makes me wonder if the unclassified contents of the handbook are truly worthy of such safeguarding or if they’re being kept out of the public eye because of the negative publicity and/or embarrassment their release might cause.
As I reported in a post July 18, a source within the Army FOIA community has told me that my wait for a determination ranks among the longest imposed on anyone by Army officials during the past three years.
General Allen knows about the threats facing American troops serving under him as members of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. Furthermore, he knows what’s in the handbook. Most importantly, however, he knows whether or not the contents of the handbook will add significantly to any meaningful discussion of the so-called “green-on-blue” attacks — the subject of his aforementioned Senate testimony — which have left dozens of Americans wounded or dead in Afghanistan. At the hands of their “allies” in the Afghan National Security Force.
Wisely, as I reported in a post July 10, General Allen — a Marine — is leaving it up to the Army to make the FOIA determination.
One way or the other, I’ll share the outcome of this FOIA request in my second nonfiction book, THE CLAPPER MEMO, set to be released this fall. Stay tuned!
My first nonfiction book, Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice, is available in paperback and ebook via most online booksellers, including Amazon.com. Thanks in advance!