A few weeks ago I picked up a copy of Plunging Point: Intelligence failures, cover-ups and consequences by Lance Collins and Warren Reed.
This book is no doubt well-known amongst military and intelligence cognoscenti in Australia. Former Lieutenant Colonel Lance Collins was an intelligence officer who served Australia during the East Timor conflict between 1999-2000. He became known as a whistleblower after his letter to the Prime Minister detailing a pro-Indonesian bias within Australia’s intelligences services was leaked to the public.
Warren Reed was a former senior intelligence officer with ASIS, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, who also experienced censure when trying to expose wrongdoing.
Collins’ and Reed’s book is a good starting point for seeking an unflinching insight into the intelligence agency culture of Anglophone countries. Although there are some clunky attempts at basic overviews of international relations theory halfway through, this particular section made the bell toll:
The Principles of Cover-Up
1) Make a deliberate decision to cover up.
2) Select a seasoned government or military fixer to be the instrument.
3) Shoot the messenger – the truth must never be revealed – except fragments that support the cover-up.
4) Lie big, lie often and lie doggedly – and never diverge from the script.
5) Let some truth out – in the same way that the insurance industry makes some payments: because if it didn’t, the industry would lose its viability.
6) Appoint the right judge, investigator or ‘stacked’ committee.
7) Contain initial damage in the public perception.
8) Buy time so that the public profile is overtaken by other events.
9) Use clever timing to minimize the impact of public announcements.
10) Deny information to the truth-teller, imposing burdens of time, energy and expense in forcing them to use Freedom of Information legislation.
11) Deflect the responsibility.
12) Identify scapegoats.
13) Engage in ritualistic cosmetic surgery. What you cannot cover up, turn into a virtue by releasing partial truth.
14) Enlist ‘useful idiots’ to do the dirty work, i.e. compliant or unwitting professionals, who, once fed an appropriate line, will ‘find’ or produce corroborating evidence.
15) Go to extreme lengths to portray any leaked documents written by the truth-teller as nullities.
16) Return to status quo ante as soon as possible.
Does any of this sound familiar to you?