Every day thousands of Americans working for the U.S. government spend all their waking hours keeping their fellow citizens safe. The vast majority of them work quietly — and anonymously — as they track our enemies, aid our allies, and seek out any and all threats to our country. And most of the men and women don’t give a damn about the absurd posturing and contrived drama generated by America’s political process. As I learned first-hand in 2003, there are times when the politicians bring the posturing and drama to you.
I served my country, loyally and well, as a covert CIA operations officer focused on stopping nuclear weapon proliferation until the Bush administration decided to betray my secret identity as payback for my husband questioning the White House’s justification for the Iraq War. The lesson was simple: If you offer the public a true story that is at odds with what the government wants you to know, they will stop at nothing to destroy you, your reputation, and the reputations of the people around you.
In the past few weeks, we have heard riveting stories of heroism and valor from one of the U.S. soldiers who participated in the combat mission that killed Osama bin Laden. His book, written under a pseudonym (his true identity was subsequently made public by Fox News), is by most accounts devoid of any classified information. In fact, most of what is in the book had been already leaked by top officials of the U.S. government themselves. I am dismayed to read the steady stream of criticism flowing from the U.S. government aimed at the book and its author. The Defense Department and administration officials have calledthe author’s decision to publish the book the “height of irresponsibility.” Former CIA Director and current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has even gone so far as to say, “I think we have to take steps to make clear to him and to the American people that we’re not going to accept this kind of behavior.”
At the same time that they threaten the author and try to “make clear” they’re not going to accept an honest account of what happened in Abbottabad, Americans have also recently learned that the CIA and other U.S. government agencies have been cooperating with Hollywood figures on a movie about the same topic. In fact, according to CIA emails released recently, one writer was given a “deep dive” inside the Agency as they wrote a screenplay on the bin Laden raid. Are U.S. government officials angry that the author wrote a book, or that his book came out before their movie? This, of course, comes after the U.S. government officials have participated in and been sources for newspaper articles, magazine features and even movies — like Act of Valor.
It is time for the public to make clear to our government that we will no longer accept their unsubstantiated or spoon-fed version as the only one of significant historical events. I don’t believe that cooperating with an author or a screenwriter or even a movie producer on an authentic account of what happened in war is necessarily a bad thing, as long as no classified information is jeopardized. In fact, it has happened throughout American history and inspired many Americans to serve our country in their careers — myself included. However, next time you hear an American government official attacking the author of No Easy Day — stop and ask yourself why they are trying to bully an American hero. I just wish the officials making these threats would do the same. Our government has survived as long as it has because there are those prepared to hold it to account for its words and deeds. It’s the essence of our democracy.