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The Greenville Incident

Like the Titanic, the Fault is the Captain's

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, February 21, 2001.

As predicted, the Navy is deciding to blame it all on the civilians. The sub Greeneville, the one that killed a bunch of utterly innocent Japanese in international waters, has put the Navy in agony because there can only be two reasons for the incident: the zillion dollar machines don't work as the Navy claims or their crew was criminally incompetent and or negligent and has committed manslaughter on the open seas. Since we are Americans, and this is the American Navy, neither scenario can be tolerated so the Navy has turned on its alleged friends it took on the trip: the civilian moneybags and politicos and Tom Clancy wannabes. And since the sonar records indicate that the Japanese boat had been spotted and given a tracking name, there is only one culprit.

Today, a member of the crew reluctantly admitted that he stopped writing down sonar info because he had been distracted over the course of an hour by the sixteen civilians in the control room. Please. He is, possibly willingly, trying to soften the blow against the officers. This gesture does not explain how they missed seeing the 190 foot boat on a periscope sweep or why the Captain didn't notice the information absence before surfacing or why he tolerated its absence given that sonar contacts do not vanish without requiring an explanation. There is no way to pat this into shape. The Captain murdered people because he was incompetent: it is his job not to be distracted. This is not to say that having goobers aboard a nuclear submarine asking what blinking lights mean is not a world class stupid idea, but that the captain and his officers were not riding herd. Facts are facts.

Just like the FBI screwed up in having a functioning enemy spy as an employee for fifteen years without anyone noticing. Recall, only a few years ago, the Bureau bragged that it had never had an agent corrupted. Like J. Edgar Hoover's reluctance to admit the Mafia existed, probably because he was being blackmailed, this quaint assumption - almost mathematically impossible to have ever been believable - has blown up. At least three agents in the last few years have been caught as spies. The correct number must be much larger. The double agent wasn't caught because he knew the FBI profile of double agents, so he avoided all the stigmata. He didn't live beyond the assumed means of a FBI income. He never went overseas. He supposedly never even let on to the Russians his real name. Maybe. What this does is emphasize that just like television and the movies, the FBI has again fallen in love with the Profiler concept. Isn't it amazing? All you have to do to betray the FBI and your country is read the back of a cereal box about how to not fit the profile.

It could have been worse, but it was bad enough. The double agent apparently got a few of our double agents convicted in Russian courts, and two of them were executed for treason, which we consider correct when we are betrayed. If someone else feels betrayed by our spies, they are barbarians for killing these heroes. But suppose it had been the famed FBI lab that had been infiltrated. Suppose it came about that all these DNA tests which are releasing prisoners is proved, at some point, to have been the work of double agents.

Well, you ask, why would they do this? Well, I answer, the United States and the very concept of Democratic institutions is based upon an inculcated faith that your fellow citizens are mostly fair and trustworthy on the big issues. And today much guilt and innocence is no longer based upon the reasoning of twelve good men and true or even six Oprah shut-ins temporarily sober but on the word on a lab tech that the decade old blood in this vial matches the blood on that wall in these photos. There is no way to tell where the blood in the vial came from, we have to take the word of a far from disinterested police officer on the career make, and the junior high grads on the jury are not remotely capable of flensing through the expert testimony to insure that the police aren't setting up someone. For that matter, neither are most attorneys and doctors. Suppose it came about that all the lab reports of the last twenty years were suspect, with innocent people electrocuted and despicable murderers let go. Well, okay, for the sake of discussion, even more than happens now. Which does more damage to the United States and its security, given that its citizens, black and white both, would have no reason to trust the legal system: that or the release of information about a new nuclear firing pin?

We know the answer. It's like asking 'what's more disrespectful to the United States? Dragging a U. S. flag made in Taiwan through the pig sty and burning it before a picture of Hillary Clinton or equating the word 'taxpayer' with 'citizen?'' How you answer these questions places you in the cultural war in which we are internally engaged. Is the Greeneville skipper innocent simply because of his job description? Is the FBI big enough to handle its job? Or is the job too big for any one institution, and shouldn't, perhaps, the lab be separate? For that matter, shouldn't police be severed from being the prosecution's lap dog, with both prosecution and defense having equal access to a laboratory unfunded by either and as disinterested as possible? Really, would you believe the Navy's explanation of the Greeneville accident left to its own devices? No? Why do you believe the FBI's?