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I'm writing this even though I'm not authorized

(In light of the recent article in a magazine that attributed certain negative statements to the President based on anonymous sources, I thought it timely to resurrect this piece from 2014. Well, that, and I had absolutely no new good ideas for this week. Yeah, right, like when has that ever stopped me before?) I'm not authorized to tell you this, so don't quote me directly, but a busload of radical Islamic militants may have been killed somewhere in Syria when a United States Air Force drone hit them with a missile labelled, 'Hey, Rafnar, this SCUD's for you.' Again, you didn't hear it from me, but it might be true. Just sayin.' I'm speaking on the condition of anonymity now, because I don't have governmental clearance to talk about such sensitive issues, but there are more leaks in supposedly classified U.S. intelligence than a metal mesh vegetable strainer. I personally prefer a plastic colander with long, narrow slots because then your onion chunks don't get caught and plug up the whole thing, but remember, don't attribute that detail to me. Sorry, I can't say why, but the Pentagon should be confirming it in a day or two. Mum's the word until then.

I read a lot of news reports every day regarding world events, and it seems to me that more and more of them are using as sources various military and governmental spokesmen who are 'not authorized to discuss' whatever issue is being reported. Just today, matter of fact, I read an article in which an 'official' of Somalia said that a major Islamic extremist group leader 'might have been killed' in a U.S. airstrike, but this person 'spoke on the condition of anonymity since he was not authorized to speak to the press.' In other words, the Islamic extremist group leader also 'might have' just gotten a haircut and a shave, or maybe just went out for coffee and a bagel. True, he might have been blown into Cap'N Crunch-sized pieces and scattered like so much sand in a Middle East desert, but how can we trust the word of an anonymous spokesperson? Did he get bribed to leak a little information? Is he an Islamic extremist propaganda pigeon purposely spreading false rumors to benefit his cause? Or, as I suspect, was this just some elaborate ploy set up for the Somali television network's version of 'You've Been Punked'?

'Oh, ho, good one, Abu. You got me that time.'

I do understand that the release of certain information is not always in the best interests of national security, and that it is necessary for officials to keep their lips sealed, whether they are 'authorized to speak to the press' or not. For instance, on the day before Navy Seal Team 6 headed to Pakistan to take out Osama bin Laden, it would have been counter-productive to release an official Pentagon statement saying, 'President Plans Martha's Vineyard Vacation as soon as bin Laden Killed in the North Upstairs Bedroom of his Secret Abbottabad Complex this Wednesday at 0900 hours.' Even a small leak, such as an off-the-cuff remark in a men's restroom from an official 'who was not authorized to speak while at a urinal' could have wrecked the entire operation.

'Tell bin Laden he won't be needing his camel tomorrow,' said an official who joked on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make stupid comments about a highly insensitive international issue after consuming four beers and a Jaegerbomb. You see what I mean.

I'm guessing that a lot of these statements from so-called unauthorized people are really intentional leaks of information designed to throw certain parties off the scent of what really is important on a given day. John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon were masters of the news leak, from what I've read, and were known to commonly tell underlings in their administrations to toss certain pre-manicured tidbits to reporters, knowing they'd race straight to their typewriters to be the first to get a scoop out on the UPI wire.

It's still happening all over the world today, obviously, and is why we read such things in newspapers as 'Russian troops are not within a thousand miles of the Ukrainian border,' according to a Kremlin official who spoke on the condition of anonymity so he doesn't get his nipples cut off with a hacksaw by Vladimir Putin. Well, of course, that's false, there is satellite imagery showing Russian tanks and artillery and ammunition stockpiles and 'Putin in 2028 posters' hundreds of miles into Ukraine, but the government must keep up a veil of innocence so the world might think, 'Hmm, they said it's not so, so it musn't be.' Yeah, right, Nixon once ordered an official who was not authorized to talk to the press to say the 18 1/2-minute blank spot in the Watergate tapes was caused by Martian radio frequency interference. Well, no, he didn't really do that, according to a source who's not identifi ed to speak on the record because he's just an insignificant small-town weekly newspaper dude who makes such stuff up to try to fill column space. Speaking of newspaper dudes, it's really our fault -- the media's, I mean - that there is so much anonymous crap getting into print. Really, if someone is not authorized to talk to the press, why is the press even bothering with that person, when they know full well that whatever the 'spokesman' says is not worth the paper on which it's printed? Why doesn't the press demand statements only from somebody who is 'authorized,' or at least courageous enough to tell the world what's going on instead of hiding behind some cowardly 'Oh, sorry, I'm not allowed to say that' excuse?

The problem, I think, is there is such an obscene rush to get the story out these days that reporters and news agencies will print anything with even a faint smell of newsworthiness, just to beat the bloggers and the tweeters with something resembling news value. If the lowly diplomat in the Afghanistan embassy is willing to say a bad guy with an AK-47 who was once seen within 10 miles of a radical Islamic leader 'might have' been killed in an airstrike, well, by all means, get that in print before CNN gets a hold of it. And, if a Kremlin janitor who is not authorized to speak to the media unless he wants to be scrubbing toilets in Siberia says that there are no Soviet anti-aircraft missiles pointed at Kiev with their safeties off, well, just add that innocuous 'speaking on condition of anonymity' phrase to the report, and we're covered.

Well, just for the record, I don't like it, although I'm not authorized to tell you so because I'm really not all that bright, and according to a majority of my ex-wives, my opinion doesn't much matter anyway.