An Open Letter to Edward Snowden: Letting the Kattenburg out of the [CENSORED] Bag

ellsberg-snowdenDear Mr. Snowden:

I know a little secret. Actually, I’ve been dying to tell someone since [CENSORED] when I discovered that [CENSORED]. For rather obvious reasons, I cannot think of anyone more likely to understand my situation than you. I’m hoping maybe you, me and a few others can start a Friday night gin rummy club to share stories over [CENSORED] and Cokes. (Seriously, how many of us are there in this country charged with keeping Uncle Sam’s dirty little secrets?)

When you bravely stirred the pot of U.S. surveillance stew several weeks ago, the first thing that sprang to mind was the semi-forgotten tale of Daniel Ellsberg. By now, I’m sure you’ve read enough recent articles about him from your hideout on [CENSORED] Street in Hong Kong that if people start referring to your disclosure as The Verizon Papers, you’ll know what they mean.

Ellsberg and The Pentagon Papers are a natural place for reflective citizens to turn in order to interpret the phenomenon of what you have done/are doing. This is good, because popular “cinematic history” wrongly points a finger at Tricky Dick & Co. for the Vietnam Cluster[CENSORED]—when really it was men serving the supposed progressive political utopia of Camelot—[CENSORED]holes like McGeorge Bundy, Dean Rusk and Robert McNamara—who got us into that mess in the first place.

This is why I didn’t mind your comments that I read on [CENSORED] today about President Obama. It reminded me that just because someone has a donkey tattooed on his [CENSORED] doesn’t mean that he is a progressive leader.

Damn. Wouldn’t it be something if Bernie [CENSORED] were President for just one day? Can you imagine all the [CENSORED] clandestine beans that would get spilled? Is it just me, or do you suppose there’s a reason he doesn’t serve on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence?

Sorry. You’ll have to pardon my (Indochina) French. Sometimes I get a little upset when talking about Vietnam. My uncle was shipped off to that slaughterhouse and took a bullet to the brain for no damned good reason. I imagine there are quite a few Vietnamese still none-too-pleased with that period of history. I suppose [CENSORED] made a killing on Agent Orange contracts. So maybe it wasn’t all that bad. I mean, someone has to feed the military industrial complex. Hmm. I wonder whether President [CENSORED] should draw a retrospective “red line” in the sand over that. But wait! It’s completely different when a Mideast dictator like [CENSORED] uses chemical weapons against his people!

Sorry again. Boy, it’s easy to get sidetracked when there’s so much governmental hypocrisy in the air. It’s like throwing [CENSORED] at a [CENSORED].

Where was I? Oh yes. I wanted to thank you for reminding those of us who aren’t too busy queuing in line at Chik-[CENSORED]-A and Chuck [CENSORED] Cheese’s that the federal government keeps a lot of nasty little secrets from its people—not to mention illegally collects information about its citizens and allies, countries like [CENSORED] and [CENSORED].

What really chaps my hide is watching politicians on both sides of the aisles posing before the Washington cameras—people like Senator [CENSORED] and Representative [CENSORED]—who have the audacity to suggest that Americans just don’t understand what’s for their own good. Granted, U.S. citizens who spend their days eating leftover [CENSORED JUST BECAUSE WE CAN] Pockets and watching “Treehouse Masters” perhaps should not be permitted to learn about illegal governmental espionage. But those of us who watch Dr. [CENSORED] actually can handle advanced intelligence. After all, I understand how the TARDIS works; it’s quite simple: [REALLY CENSORED].

Despite my knowledge of advanced time lord travel-craft, the United States government treats me like a [CENSORED] baby. I can prove this. There’s a document on my desk entitled “INADVERTENT DISCLOSURE BRIEFING AND AGREEMENT.” I was forced to sign this document on [CENSORED] when the U.S. Department of State learned that I had “unintentionally been exposed to sensitive information.” Two official-looking men with guns told me so—even though I insisted there was very little about [CENSORED] that was likely to make my skin break into a rash. Normally I am very good at engaging in dialogue about such things, but guns are remarkably persuasive. Case in point [CENSORED].

So…I signed the document. And even though I signed it “Arnie Schwarzenegger,” I believe I am still compelled to abide by its terms of absolute secrecy about [CENSORED].

While I can’t tell you anything about what I accidentally learned—lest I go to jail for many years—I can, I think, divulge that it happened long ago and isn’t likely to impact anyone’s telephonic metadata. Hopefully I won’t be considered in violation by telling you that it happened sometime after the signing of the Treaty of Kadesh between Egypt and the Hittite Kingdom in 1259 BCE. Also, it did not involve [CENSORED] nor kielbasas.

At any rate and completely unrelated to the above classified matter, I wanted to introduce you to a wonderful man named Paul Kattenburg. While the world celebrates your current bravery and remembers the heroism of Mr. Ellsberg, it seems fitting to bring Dr. Kattenburg to the media surface again. Actually, I’m in a unique position to introduce you to him. I am the individual who archived his personal papers for the University of [CENSORED].

Were it not for Daniel Ellsberg and The Pentagon Papers, Paul Kattenburg’s heroism may never have come to light.

As a teenager in his native Belgium, Kattenburg fled the Nazis and found his way to the United States. He served in the OSS and eventually attained a doctorate from Yale, then joined the U.S. Foreign Service and rose quickly through the diplomatic ranks at posts in Frankfurt, Manila and Saigon. In 1963, while stationed in Washington and serving as one of the country’s foremost experts on Southeast Asia, he stood up during a National Security Council meeting and told Vice President Lyndon Johnson, Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara that they were essentially idiots to do anything but turn heel in Southeast Asia. Here I quote the summary of this and subsequent events as found in the April 30, 2005, issue of [CENSORED]:

“On August 31 1963 Kattenburg, then chairman of the Vietnam Working Group, attended a [CENSORED] meeting which would dramatically alter [CENSORED] …. Kattenburg was the lone dissenter in [CENSORED]. Further, Kattenburg advocated a total American withdrawal from Vietnam – ‘[I]t would be better for us to make the decision to get out honorably.’”

To make a long story short, within months, [CENSORED] along with [CENSORED] F. [CENSORED]. Kattenburg—again, the nation’s foremost expert on Southeast Asian affairs—soon found himself exiled to Guyana. Because—duh!—a mosquito-infested [CENSORED] in South America is really where you want to strategically place such a uniquely qualified individual. Six years later and because of the divulgence of sundry political tales leaked by Ellsberg, the New York Times wrote:

“[Kattenburg was] the first official on record in a high-level Vietnam policy meeting to pursue to its logical conclusion the analysis that the war effort was irretrievable.”

You know, while I’m thinking of it, you probably didn’t have to go to all that trouble to flee to Hong Kong. If you had stuck around, the powers that be might have sent you packing to Guyana. Of course, if you had stayed and accepted your exile, you probably would have bumped into one of those officials with a gun who I met in [CENSORED].

Oh, lest we forget, those [CENSORED] in Washington who shipped off Kattenburg to South America didn’t pay one damned hoot to his prophetic warning. Let’s name this gaggle of [CENSORED] again: Johnson, McNamara, Rusk. There were others, of course, including [CENSORED]. These hegemonic hawks were too busy herding citizen soldier sheep to their deaths—not to mention picking off hapless peasants.

By the way, Kattenburg eventually retired from his admirable career in diplomatic service and next became a university professor at [CENSORED]. Near the end of his career, he became so fed up with the fact that nearly three full decades after the Vietnam Cluster[CENSORED] the U.S. government still refused to declassify critical historical documents that he quit the American [CENSORED] Association given its ties to [CENSORED].

Thus endeth the history lesson.

I’m hoping this letter finds you soon. You deserve to learn about brave souls like Paul Kattenburg. You need all the solidarity you can get right now. I just wanted to remind you that you are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, past and present.

Actually, the rest of us need to remember patriots like Ellsberg and Kattenburg, too. Your actions have permitted such brave men to be raised from the historical ashes again. To quote a great novel: “The problem of evil is memory.” Let us not forget.

By the way, as long as [CENSORED], I should probably warn you to avoid [CENSORED] as much as possible, especially if you’re in [CENSORED] on a [CENSORED]. I realize that’s crossing the line on Executive Order [CENSORED] that those men with the guns made me sign. But I think you have a right to know.



Arik Bjorn

Arik Bjorn lives in Columbia, South Carolina. He was the Democratic Party / Green Party fusion candidate for U.S. Congress in the 2nd Congressional District of South Carolina. Visit the archive for Arik’s campaign website, and check out his latest book, So I Ran for Congress. You can also follow his political activities on Twitter @Bjorn2RunSC and on Facebook. And be sure to check out more from Arik in his archives!


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