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  November 16, 2012

Petraeus Scandal Reveals Surveillance State and Hypocrisy Over Benghazi


Larry Wilkerson: The traditional concept of privacy is disappearing; Lindsey Graham and John McCain, how dare you?
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biography

Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Government and Public Policy Lawrence Wilkerson's last positions in government were as Secretary of State Colin Powell's Chief of Staff (2002-05), Associate Director of the State Department's Policy Planning staff under the directorship of Ambassador Richard N. Haass, and member of that staff responsible for East Asia and the Pacific, political-military and legislative affairs (2001-02). Before serving at the State Department, Wilkerson served 31 years in the U.S. Army. During that time, he was a member of the faculty of the U.S. Naval War College (1987 to 1989), Special Assistant to General Powell when he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989-93), and Director and Deputy Director of the U.S. Marine Corps War College at Quantico, Virginia (1993-97). Wilkerson retired from active service in 1997 as a colonel, and began work as an advisor to General Powell. He has also taught national security affairs in the Honors Program at the George Washington University. He is currently working on a book about the first George W. Bush administration.


transcript

Petraeus Scandal Reveals Surveillance State and Hypocrisy Over BenghaziJESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.

Well, you must have heard of this big Petraeus scandal involving an extramarital affair. Here to discuss what the media is actually missing behind this story is Larry Wilkerson. Colonel Larry Wilkerson was the former chief of staff for U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. He's currently an adjunct professor of government at the College of William & Mary. And he's a regular contributor to The Real News Network. Thank you for joining us, Larry.

COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON, FMR. CHIEF OF STAFF TO COLIN POWELL: Thanks for having me, Jessica.

DESVARIEUX: So, Larry, what are we missing behind this Petraeus extramarital affair story?

WILKERSON: Some have not missed it, but most have, and that's the fact that I think we're increasingly living in a surveillance state. And in an odd turn of irony, if you will, we actually have captured some of the leaders of this surveillance state—most notably, of course, is the director of the CIA. We have no privacy, really, anymore in this country except the privacy of anonymity. If we are insignificant, if we're small, if we don't bother anyone, then the chances of us being surveilled for some purpose that might be injurious to us is slim. But if we're working anywhere in the government or anywhere associated with things the government touches, which is, as you might suspect, almost everything, then we are surveilled, whether we are on email, whether we're on the telephone, cell or landline, no matter what we're doing. And increasingly we're even surveilled by video—wait until you look up and see that Predator or that Reaper or some other unmanned vehicle flying down your city street. It's coming. The traditional concept of privacy, whether you're a high muckity-muck or just a lowlife dude like me, is disappearing. And I don't think it's going to come back any time soon.

DESVARIEUX: Yeah. The joke has been going that if the head of the CIA can't keep secret that he's having an affair, good luck, average guys out there. That's been the—.

WILKERSON: Yeah. Well, certainly the director of the CIA has more visibility on him. And this is another aspect of it for both he and General Allen that I simply do not understand. In this age, where I know what I just told you and where they know what I just told you in spades, how on earth could they be communicating the way they were and not believe, not know that they were going to be revealed and uncovered?

DESVARIEUX: So let's switch gears a little bit. The president held his first press conference since being elected, reelected, on November 14. What did you make of this press conference, specifically dealing with Benghazi, the Benghazi issue?

WILKERSON: The first thing I made of it was it took him a long time to get passed the sexual peccadillos to even get to substantive issues. And the most substantive issue I would have liked to have seen more coverage of, of course, is what we're going to do with some specifics to achieve some sort of different happening than falling off the budget cliff with sequestration.

But Benghazi was—is a huge issue, too, and I—you know, my response to that, to people like Lindsey Graham and John McCain is: how dare you? Where were you when 3,000 Americans died on September 11, 2001, and George W. Bush was the president of the United States? After all, Benghazi pales when you compare that. And, of course, the answer would be, well, we had the 2004 9/11 Commission. Yeah, 2004—a long time after the events. And there was not this sort of, you know, angst amongst my Republican Party when their president had committed something far worse than Benghazi. And I will also go on and say that the 9/11 Commission was no shining example of how to point fingers at the administration in power when the incident occurred.

So, while I'm not trying to relieve anybody's responsibility with regard to what happened in Benghazi, I'm just saying this is political theater. This is political theater, when we have enormous challenges confronting us right now, when we ought to be having meetings and serious discussions about how to avert this fiscal cliff that we're confronting, when we ought to be having serious conversations about what's happening in Afghanistan, which is looking worse and worse every day, and when we ought to be confronting far more serious challenges than what happened in Benghazi. Let's face it, diplomats get killed. Generals occasionally get killed. Lately, diplomats seem to get killed more often than generals. That ought to tell us something about who's in real danger. But it's a part of the job, as many have said. I think I heard Ambassador Ryan Crocker say that even today.

So this is not an issue that should cause us to have to stop for very long. There are issues, as I pointed out, though, that should cause us to have to stop, deliberate, come to some sort of compromise, some sort of decision. So that's my chief concern with this and with the nature of that press conference.

DESVARIEUX: Well, thank you so much for joining us, Larry.

WILKERSON: Thanks for having me. And let me just say that keep up the good work, because Real News is one of the few outlets allowing this sort of thing to go on, and I really like watching it. I've watched your episodes on the economy and the fiscal cliff we're confronting and the different views on it and everything. I think you've really done a fine job.

WILKERSON: Oh, thank you for that endorsement.

And thank you for watching The Real News Network.

End

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.



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