President Gollum’s ‘Precious’ Secrets

Exclusive: Despite promises of “openness,” President Obama has treated information that could inform American democracy like Tolkien’s character Gollum coveted his “precious” ring. Obama is keeping for himself analyses that could change how the public sees the crises in Syria and Ukraine, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

President Barack Obama promised a “transparent” administration, reviving democracy by letting Americans see into the inner workings of their government as much as possible, an implicit criticism of the excessive secrecy of his predecessor, George W. Bush. But instead Obama’s presidency has been one of the most opaque and deceptive in modern history.

Not only has Obama continued to wrap the carry-over anti-terrorism wars in maximum secrecy but he has taken unprecedented steps to shut down leaks by prosecuting whistleblowers who talk to the press. And, he has left standing his administration’s misleading rushes to judgment on key issues after U.S. intelligence analysts have refined or reversed the first impressions.

Gollum, a character in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings fantasy novels.

Gollum, a character in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings fantasy novels.

Whether on the Syrian sarin attack in 2013 or pivotal incidents in the Ukraine crisis who was behind the sniper attacks in Kiev last Feb. 20 and who shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 last July 17 Obama has withheld evidence developed by U.S. government analysts rather than undercut the propaganda value of the initial accusations.

In the sarin incident, Secretary of State John Kerry and others rushed to blame President Bashar al-Assad’s government bringing the U.S. military to the brink of war and similarly the State Department exploited the two most iconic events of the Ukraine crisis by blaming then-President Viktor Yanukovych for the sniper killings and Russia and ethnic Russian rebels for shooting down MH-17 killing all 298 people onboard.

After the State Department had squeezed out the propaganda value of those accusations, U.S. intelligence analysts came to more detailed conclusions with their findings conflicting with the hasty finger-pointing after the events. But instead of refining or correcting the record, the Obama administration typically went silent, leaving the initial impressions in place even when the President knew better.

In the context of Ukraine, I asked one senior administration official about this behavior and he responded that Russia held most of the advantages there by nature of proximity and history but that one advantage the United States wielded was “information warfare” and it made no sense to surrender that edge by withdrawing accusations that had put Russian President Vladimir Putin on the defensive.

Thus, in this Orwellian world that seems to have swallowed America’s major institutions, what mattered most was how “information” including false or misleading propaganda could be deployed for geopolitical purposes even if it also involved deceiving the U.S. public. Or, one might say, especially if it deceived the U.S. public.

‘Perception Management’

This attitude toward manipulating rather than informing the American people has a long and grim history. For instance, President Lyndon Johnson won congressional support for his disastrous Vietnam War escalation by citing the Tonkin Gulf incident, a false claim about North Vietnamese aggression which has since been debunked but still is used historically by the Defense Department to justify the millions killed in that conflict.

After the U.S. defeat in Vietnam, President Ronald Reagan set up inter-agency task forces devoted to the concept of “perception management,” essentially how to get the American people to “kick the Vietnam Syndrome” and get back into line behind U.S. military interventions abroad, a CIA-inspired campaign that proved stunningly successful. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Victory of ‘Perception Management.’”]

Last decade, the American people got their perceptions managed once more regarding Iraq’s non-existent WMD, leading to another catastrophic war which continues to spread chaos and death across the Middle East to this day. One might think that with that bloody history, President Obama would want to fulfill his promises of “transparency.”

According to a memorandum instructing Executive Branch department heads, Obama wrote: “My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.  We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.”

Instead, Obama has clamped down more than ever on openness and transparency, including the prosecution of more government whistleblowers than all the previous presidents combined and sitting on U.S. intelligence reports that would change how Americans understand major international crises.

By and large, Obama has continued the excessive secrecy of President George W. Bush, including withholding from the American people 28 pages of the 2002 congressional investigation into the 9/11 attack that relate to Saudi financing for al-Qaeda terrorists.

Obama also has refused to give the U.S. public access to the updated intelligence analyses of more current crises, including the near American military entry into the Syrian civil war in 2013 and the potential nuclear showdown with Russia over Ukraine in 2014. So, even when American lives are being put at risk by rushes to judgment, Obama doesn’t believe that the people have a right to know the facts.

The Pathology of Secrecy

I spoke with one person who has known Obama since he was a senator from Illinois who suggested the President is fearful that if he does release these secrets and some negative consequences result that he’ll be blamed. In order words, Obama in practice is too scared to live up to his commitment about “transparency.”

Another less generous explanation is that Obama is at heart an elitist who likes to surround himself with secrets but doesn’t want to share them with common citizens who are best treated like the proverbial mushrooms kept in the dark and fertilized.

Or put differently, Obama is like the character Gollum in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series who is entranced by the power of the One Ring and obsessively pursues it, what he calls “my Precious.” In that analogy, Obama can’t part with his precious secrets despite his promises to the American people about government openness.

Surely, Obama does get warnings against letting the public in on what the U.S. government knows about pivotal events. Government bureaucrats can always find reasons to keep information secret. But presidents have the ultimate say in what is kept secret and what is released.

And, except for a flurry of disclosures immediately after taking office, including Bush’s legal memos justifying torture, Obama has done less about opening up the federal government’s archives than many recent presidents. For instance, President Bill Clinton declassified Cold War-era files on U.S. participation in Guatemala’s decades of brutal repression.

Obama has shown less enthusiasm for giving Americans back their history. More importantly, however, Obama has withheld crucial information about current crises, such as the Syrian sarin attack and events that drove the Ukrainian civil war. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case” and “The Danger of an MH-17 Cold Case.”]

In both areas, his administration rushed to judgment based on fragmentary information and as more detailed data became available challenging the earlier claims Obama clamped down on what the American people were allowed to hear.

Much like the Tonkin Gulf case, war hawks in the U.S. government found the misimpressions useful, so they didn’t want to correct the record. All the better to get an edge on foreign “adversaries” and manage the perceptions of the American people.

And, for whatever his reasons, President Obama couldn’t let go of his “Precious.”

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). You also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

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18 comments for “President Gollum’s ‘Precious’ Secrets

  1. Abe
    February 16, 2015 at 8:04 pm

    Without a doubt, Obama is a master of debate. Here he debates himself:

    Sméagol: “It’s ours! Ours! We must get the Precious! We must get It back!”

    Gollum: “Patience! Patience, my love. First we must lead them to her.”

    Sméagol: “We lead them to the winding stairs.”

    Gollum: “Yes, the stairs. And then?”

    Sméagol: “Up, up, up, up the stairs we go. And then we come to the tunnel.”

    Gollum: “And when they go in, there’s no coming out. She’s always hungry. She always needs to feed.”

    Obviously a reference to Hillary.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3IUoR9E7D4

    • February 17, 2015 at 12:13 pm

      Good un!
      The candy Obama offers is like Forrest Gump’s Chocolate box of Whitman Samplers, there is a piece in there for everyone, but no one knows, exactly what they are going to get. Someone is going to have to hold his feet to the fire to get him moving.
      I wrote this piece in 2009 when he just came into office. It is still relevant.
      http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticle.asp?xfile=data/opinion/2008/December/opinion_December39.xml&section=opinion&col=

      • goldhoarder
        February 19, 2015 at 10:54 pm

        Glen Ford’s The more effective evil is the story of the Obama presidency

    • Eileen K
      February 18, 2015 at 7:32 pm

      Bravo, Abe! You nailed it perfectly with this analogy. J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” fits the Obama regime’s secrecy to a T.
      Great job, buddy; that was absolutely brilliant.

  2. February 17, 2015 at 12:03 am

    Excellent article. Obama is a well paid, lavishly supported employee of those who have stolen our country. Your columns have done a lot to expose the fraudulent nature of the administration, which creates an opportunity for the general public to get an education.
    FYI – I keep getting the same front page for this site. This is the lead article – always:
    A Leak Case Based on Fear and Guesses January 23, 2015
    Just wondering…

  3. February 17, 2015 at 6:06 am

    WATCH: President Obama on his foreign policy goals –

    Vox Conversations with the POTUS

    http://www.vox.com/2015/2/16/8045747/netanyahu-us-iran#ooid=AxdnI4czqLU_gYAaWtQYb1GuUMTeI9jI

    • February 17, 2015 at 7:05 pm

      Watch Obama on Russia and Putin and Ukraine here:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Duu6IwW3sbw

      It is all hypocrisy! And Lies! Bushshit!!

      Obama and his administration have done, or achieved, none of the things which they claim to have done in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine, Syria or at home in the US.

      Much of the problems may have been inherited from the policies and tactics of the bent, crooked, broken and hijacked eight-year Administration of George Bush, but nothing has really changed. In fact, his pursuit of these very same methods and tactics as “resolutions” to these problems seems to have simply added more fuel to these disastrous fires.

      The next thing you know he will be dumping petrol on California brush fires and claiming that he is extinguishing them.

      Where did he learn politics and governance, from Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicu? Or Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus? Or is it simply that their offspring have become his advisors?

      In Old Time Square Dance the caller “swung ‘em to the Right” and he “swung ‘em to the Left,” and he “Doesey Doe’ed” ‘em in between. But today we seem to be swingin’ mostly to the Right and doing a lot of Dosey Doo!

      And no one is enjoying the dance!

      Perhaps we have hired the wrong fiddler!

      What we need here is less fine talk and more firm walk.

      Rhetoric, said to have been invented by Homer, was brought to the level of art by Empedocles, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero and others. Obama, or his speech writers and handlers, seems to have raised it to even higher degrees of very fine art and effectively applied it to their gainful benefit in modern-day politics but, if he is to make history of any significance, he is going to have to stop talking, put on some heavy duty boots, walk fast, far and kick ass!

      I seriously doubt that we are going to see this eventuate.

      It was Thucydides who warned us about slick tongued orators when he criticized the weakness and dangers of Democracy!

      Freedom, Democracy and the Rights of Man may be inherent in our birth, as that great rhetorician Thomas Jefferson wrote, but neither of those qualities fall off trees by themselves.

      They have to be pursued, fought for, captured, retained, and jealously guarded for the rest of our lives if we intend to keep them.

      Most of them have been stolen, and all the sweet talk and calling in the world will not bring them back.

      Someone has to do more ass kicking and a lot less ass kissing!

      It is beginning to look like Obama is not the man for it!

      Excuse the incoherent rambling. It’s just one of those days when the brain tends to overreact!!

      Yes, it is harsh… but having said it myself, I cannot condemn it for its harshness, nor question the logic, and the passion behind it!

      I believe it is something which needs to be said, not once, but as frequently as the situation calls for it.

      This is not something which can be said in a nicey-nicey voice and still carry the intended impact.

      But it is the repetitious blows of the hammer which drive the nail ever deeper into the timber.

      It is rhetoric designed to illustrate and illuminate the end of forbearance and call for passionate affirmative and effective action!

  4. onno
    February 17, 2015 at 7:08 am

    Again a great article by Robert Parry. It shows again that politicians do ANYTHING to get elected from false promises to straight LIES and Obama is not different. He promised a more TRANSPARENT Washington but the American people got even more bureaucracy and especially more lies. On top of that Oboma who never had an executive job in his life is unable to make decisions as well. He goes with whatever the wind blows. Obamacare got him re-elected on the false hope that people had that they would finally get a social type of healthcare in the USA but again the people were fooled.

    After Vietnam US was involved in Yugoslavia war between Serbia and Croatia over the bodies of Bosnia & Herzegovina with all its atrocities. President Reagan had a clear objective it should ban all types of Communism.. Proven again by US war against Serbia using ‘dirty or bombs with enriched uranium to convince Milosovic who was TOO friendly with Russia in the eyes of Washington. Also in the war in Iraq DIRTY bombs were used that had similar effects as Agent Orange (DIOXIN) in Vietnam that is to get as many ‘durable’ casualties as possible (call these bombs cancerbombs) where people died a slow death, had deformed babies, etc.

    The same we see today in Ukraine where US supplied the Ukrainian army with cluster- and gas bombs both banned by the UN of which of course USA did NOT sign. In addition according to the German Secret Service (BND) USA send 400 CIA agents and Blackwater snipers to start the atrocities on Maidan in Kiev. Obama is silent about the American involvement in this Nation and refuses to present ANY proves they may have regarding the downing of MH 17, and maybe also MH 370!! No satellite pictures are shown only pictures of colons of Russian tanks supposedly entering Ukraine although they were taken INSIDE Russia. It’s all about a US war scenario against President Putin and the Russian people who have suffered the most in the last WW II war with 22 million casualties. USA MSM propaganda machine President Putin and the Russian people openly is indeed a ‘Declaration of War’ and demonizing a foreign leader who is supported by 85% of the Russian people I admired President Putin’s restraints by not counter attacking.

    US Foreign policies has always been by aggression and escalating domestic instabilities as we see again in Ukraine. However, Washington should read Russian history for a change and will realize that this gigantic country has been an Empirium since the 13th Century and no foreign force including the Nazi’s and Napoleon could ever conquer. President Putin and the Russian people DO NOT want war, they want to be recognized and respected in the World but the USA refuses to recognize this and as result gets more and more isolated. So, wake up America in this WW III will also be fought in your country will be under attack but it will be much worse than 9/11! Get your Warriors like VP Biden, John Kerry, McCain, Nuland and many more UNDER control and get them out of office. VP Biden and Joh Kerry should be impeached anyhow because of their direct involvement in the war in Ukraine because of his son Hunter and stepson Devon Archer who sold themselves to UA oligarch/criminal Kolomoisky of Burisma Holdings Ltd. (checkBloomberg/Google)

    • February 17, 2015 at 7:33 am

      True.
      It seems that some of the meanest and most foul of men on earth were all, at one time, darlings of American Administrations, Business and Presidents who pampered, sponsored and promoted them into leadership positions in their respective countries which enabled them to capture the wealth of their nations, and then bled them dry with “fees” for their continued support and dominion over their people and their riches, until they were either bled dry, or rebelled and kicked back at the personal and political abuses, following which they were abandoned and hung out to dry in the wind, or attacked and literally hung.

      I hardly know where to begin naming them all. Try it.

      Ghadaffi, Mubarak, Saddam, Osama, the Shah, Noriega, Batista, are no longer among them… Ozymandiased, all of them…. a long trail of broken stones in the desert, Burma Shave signs of warning for the sharp curves in the road ahead for today’s despots and petty American Darling Princes.

      Perhaps this explains Ozymandias and his sere broken stones lying buried in the desert sands.

      Ozymandias

      I met a traveler from an antique land
      Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
      Stand in the desert . . . Near them, on the sand,
      Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
      And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
      Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
      Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
      The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed.
      And on the pedestal these words appear:
      “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
      Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
      Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
      Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
      The lone and level sands stretch far away.

      — Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

      How many did we breed? A great many! How many survive? Quite a few!

      Oh, Beware, ye who ride high in lofty Palaces
      built on the shifting sands covering
      the riches of the desert lands.

      The Arabian Night may be long,
      and filled with a Thousand Tales,
      but the dawn is inevitable,
      and the tales all end with
      heads on silver plates.
      — late Earlaiman

  5. Consortiumnews.com
    February 17, 2015 at 11:00 am

    Posted for Peter Loeb:

    “TRANSPARENCY” AS A MEANINGLESS DISTRACTION

    “Transparency” has never had any meaning as far as a solution or action is concerned.
    It has only been the rickety underpinning for the denial of action or of an acknowledgement of reality or perhaps of error.

    John Quincy Adams, then Secretary of State for President James Monroe, wrote
    in his diary on December 30, 1817: “I showed him [a colleague] the SECRET LAWS ,
    those singular anomalies of our system which have grown out of the error in our
    Constitution which confers upon the legislature the power of declaring war…”
    Adams as Secretary of State was justifying the invasion of Florida, the
    massacre of Native Americans and others without any previous consultation
    with Congress. Among his justifications was “self-defense”. (capitals above represent Adams’ own italics.)

    Adams’ justification in a memo to Congress after- the- fact received praise from
    all sides including Thomas Jefferson and others.

    I doubt “transparency” or the lack of “secrecy” (behind closed doors etc) would have
    changed much at all.

    More current American Presidents follow Adams’ re-interpretation of the American Constitution including its “errors”

    (For a complete discussion see William Earl Weeks’ JOHN QUINCY ADAMS & AMERICAN GLOBAL EMPIRE (1992))

    —-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA.

  6. Bruce
    February 17, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    He’s simpletonly DingleBarry, driving the Bush Company GOP Elephant from its penultimate A$$ $OUL appendage!

  7. Peltast
    February 17, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    http://www.ifamericansknew.org/us_ints/po-obamaj.html

    Since then, Mikva’s support for and nurturance of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has never wavered. He is one of many influential Chicago Jews who have been among Obama’s earliest and most ardent backers.

    One longtime Jewish observer of the political scene, who did not want to be identified, said admiringly that “Jews made him. Wherever you look, there is a Jewish presence.”

  8. Vivek Jain
    February 18, 2015 at 12:25 am

    Robert Parry writes:
    “President Barack Obama promised a “transparent” administration, reviving democracy by letting Americans see into the inner workings of their government as much as possible, an implicit criticism of the excessive secrecy of his predecessor, George W. Bush…”

    No, Mr. Parry. It wasn’t an implicit criticism. Obama’s promise of transparency was a tactic to pacify his base. He was posturing, he was creating the false impression for his too-desperate, dimwitted supporters that he’s well-intentioned and genuine.

    See Chris Hedges’ 2009 piece:
    http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20090503_buying_brand_obama

    and Paul Street’s work, for example:
    https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/the-pretender/
    http://konformist.com/archives/2008/07-2008/obama3.txt
    http://www.paulstreet.org/?p=1354

  9. Claus Eric Hamle
    February 18, 2015 at 6:08 am

    The best kept “secret” is that the US is deploying missiles in Poland, Romania and on 32 ships in the Mediterranean. It’s not in the News. 30 years ago the US would deploy Cruise and Pershing in Europe. One million protested in Paris. So, this time it’s not in the News and hardly anybody knows about it. It may lead to Launch On Warning by 2017 followed by Suicide. Stop the missiles in Eastern Europe or commit Suicide !!!

  10. Human Being
    February 18, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    I’m no expert on principles of journalism or journalistic ethics, but isn’t this too much? Such harsh comparisons based on… assumptions? The article itself offers at least two possible explanations for the secrecy — the president’s fear of doing something he’ll be blamed for and then, also, the elitist option… So, whence the certainty about the latter? Also, what about other possible options, like him maybe being careful about who to trust in the administration or what big toes not to step on for his own safety (no one in government has forgotten John Kennedy, I think) or to make sure he can still do whatever little is possible for the country while still in office?

    This website has stood up well to the character assassination of Putin. Doesn’t Obama deserve an equally thorough look at all possible explanations of his actions before anyone makes harsh final conclusions? Am I missing something?

    P.S.: I’m not from the US and I’m a young fellow, too (about to finish up my twenties soon), so there’s a gap between what I know about him and what most or all of the US-based commentators here know, and certainly what the writers know.

  11. Hunter
    February 20, 2015 at 6:34 am

    One has to enlarge this, to see what is there.
    Many of us guessed California 2011
    Shocking how that item made it to Syria.
    Ever wonder, why there are never plates on any ISIS vehicles?
    Do as we all,did, do a screen shot and keep for future references.
    Feel free to share with your friends.
    http://tinyurl.com/om24e2z
    I guess Obama will never tell anyone how that happened either.

  12. February 23, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    You are a very smart person!

  13. Charlie
    February 25, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    If O’Bummer did anything close to the opposite of what he does now, he would be JFK’d. This is why every president is worse than the last – the slow creep of the Military/Security/Industrial/Complex

Comments are closed.