Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Lessons from the Commodore
If Bill Clinton had had this lecture, he wouldn't have needed to risk the freedom of Sandy Berger.... We know Sandy accidentally stuffed his pants and socks with National secrets, just before the 9-11 Hearings. When I saw this quoted email from Buzz Patterson, author of "Dereliction of Duty" (a fine read, by the way), and Buzz's remarks about it wasn't about the documents themselves, but the handwritten notes on the margins. He is so correct. We can only surmise why the followers of Clinton didn't want that on the street. It was back in 1987, and we had returned from a major fleet exercise a few days before. While we had been at sea, there was a change of command, and the incoming commodore of our destroyer squadron was Capt Joe Lopez. It was our first time back in the office (somewhere we didn't get to visit very often) and he walked out of his office, holding a naval message in his hand. Since we were still feeling him out, and he us, it got quiet. What Joe Lopez said next has stuck with me since that day. It went something like this: "Gentlemen, we may make our jokes and derogatory comments about the units we work with at times, but those things should be kept among us." He held the message up facing us, and there were some handwritten remarks in the margins. He didn't tell us what it was, but in this context, that wasn't important. "We have people from our units and other places that come in here regularly to meet with us. How would you feel if you walked in here, as one of the ship's company of a unit of ours, and saw something about your ship written on a message sitting on one of the desks in here?" "If something needs to be written on a document, make it factual and professional. That way, you'll never be called upon to explain something you regret writing." He didn't have to say any more, the point was quickly grasped.