I know I’m late to the party. I’ve been very busy with preparing for Blackwater/Para/Todd and Caleb and then I had problems with my blog that took way too long to fix (and I’m still not totally where I want to be yet).
Here is some of what others have been saying about the Mary McFate (or Mary Lou Sapone) story as broken by Mother Jones. I haven’t begun to read all 100+ blog posts–maybe only a tenth of that. But there are some things I’m not seeing that I think should be addressed.
First, the legality issue. I’m not a lawyer but my expectation is that unless she signed some sort of non-disclosure contract it’s going to be hard to make anything stick on the legal front. Expect non-disclosures to be SOP for high level positions in the anti-gun groups in the near future.
Second, the ethical issue. I’m all for playing by the rules. Anyone who knows me well will know this in the extreme. When other people are walking across the street without a light they will find me standing on the corner. When everyone else is going 10 or 15 MPH over the speed limit I’ll be going the speed limit or maybe up to 5 MPH over. That doesn’t mean I won’t push the envelope. I have a very strong tendency to follow the rules to the letter. But when that “letter” has a loophole there is also a very good chance I will try to exploit it. But I nearly always follow the rules and get very annoyed, even angry, when others don’t. Barb says it’s because I have a mild case of Asperbergers. I say it’s because I’m rational, honest, and despise cheats.
In a battle such as the one over the specific, enumerated, right to keep and bear arms the anti-gun groups have a very long history of underhanded activities. I remember before I purchased my first gun (1994) I did a bunch of research on gun control, the Second Amendment, and related stuff. I got on the mailing list for Handgun Control Inc. (now The Brady Campaign). One of their propaganda flyers said that in United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542, 553 (1875) it was spelled out explicitly, “This is not a right granted by the Constitution.” I was shocked and had to look it up to make sure. Yup. It did say that. But there was a gotcha HCI didn’t put in their propaganda. The very next sentence in that opinion said, “Neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence.” Hence it was not a simple oversight on the part of some incompetent HCI flunky. They could not have missed the very next sentence or the previous paragraphs where similar things are said about the First Amendment. This opinion is very clear that these are not rights granted by the Bill of Rights. They are preexisting rights that even the repeal of the 2nd (or 1st) Amendment could not nullify. The anti-gun people do this sort of thing constantly and sometimes every single point they make is a lie even when the facts are easily available. They do not fear being caught in a lie. It costs us far more in time, money, and precious words to fight their lies than it does for them to make the lie.
This isn’t just some sort of nit-picky Aspergers thing about something that happened nearly 15 years ago. It was just that is when I realized with absolute certainty which was the side of evil, who must be defeated, and the rules by which the game was played.
This is not to say that I think our side should be sloppy with the truth. We don’t need to. They do. What it does mean is that I have zero, perhaps even negative, qualms about doing “underhanded” or sneaky things to defeat them. They chose the playing field when they set out to destroy a specifically guaranteed civil right. They not only chose to do evil they additionally chose to use underhanded tactics in their propaganda and on the battlefield. By their actions they have declared the rules they play this game by. If we play entirely by our set of rules we may still win but how many millions of people will be denied their civil rights and how many tens of thousands will killed and injured because they were unable to exercise that right or believed a gun would more likely harm an innocent than a predator? What price are you willing to pay for “playing fair”? In some exceedingly dark projections of the future we may actually be fighting for the fate of humanity with the George Orwell’s vision given to us in 1984 as the downside of losing this fight. When the boots of a tyrannical government are smashing the face of humanity forever what satisfaction will you have for having played by your ethics rather than those that were very clear in their agenda and the rules they played by? That may not be the result of losing but that is what you are risking. Hence I agree with Sebastian when he said, “Given that, is there really any tactic that’s too sleazy and too underhanded to use in order to defeat them?”
The worst thing Mary did was getting caught. For that she, or whoever was responsible for outing her, should be quietly and behind the scenes, scolded.
Third, the benefits of having a spy. A lot of people have claimed there wasn’t all that much we could have gotten from a spy so the benefits weren’t worth risks of bad PR from possibly getting caught. Others have said advance knowledge of legislation agendas and allocation of resources for fighting initiatives could be very useful. I fully agree with this latter line of thinking but I don’t think it goes far enough in explaining what the potential benefits are. I fully agree that getting caught is bad but the benefits might well have been fantastic.
Aside from getting a magazine once a month (which I seldom read) and a few carefully worded emails with the occasional wheelbarrows full of cash (thanks Ashley!) I don’t have any deep source of from information inside the NRA. But from being “part of the U.S. intelligence community” for a while I do know a little about intelligence gathering and how it can be of benefit. The following is entirely speculation and is not in any way based on information the NRA actually received.
Example 1: Suppose the bad guys plan an initiative to ban “assault weapons”. Going in cold with the dry words of the initiative they find they can only get about half of the signatures they need to get on the ballot. Their resources are limited and they want to conserve their money for the fight once they are actually on the ballot. They can’t spend a lot of money for the signature gathers for months then fight in the media for the actual votes.
But they have done polls and found videos of unshaved men firing full auto while dressed in camouflage followed by scenes of Columbine and other school shootings yields 80% support for their initiative. They can get the required signatures in a remarkable short time if the propaganda is done correctly. They decide to coordinate the release of their video with their friends in the media with the announcement of the initiative in the two months before the deadline to turn in the signatures. The paid signatures gathers are contracted for and everything is in place for a political Blitzkrieg. If they keep things quiet the good guys won’t have time to form a coherent defense before the signatures have been gathered. Hence the bad guys can save their resources for the battle of votes on Election Day.
If the good guys have advance knowledge they will be able do their own polls (which could take weeks) with lots of different sound bites and find a couple one liners that cut that 80% support down to 40%. They prepare their own set of videos that can be hit the mass media as paid ads in only a few days after the bad guys go public. They bad guys aren’t prepared for a fight at this stage and don’t get the signatures needed. The good guys had to pay some money up front but they stopped the bad guy at the signature stage rather than to fight it out at the ballot box and can spend their resources on the defeat of the politicians who showed their colors and came out in support of the ballot initiative.
Or the good guys could come out with their own offensive that upsets the plans of the bad guys. They may know they cannot win but if they start pushing for a youth shooting program in the schools subsidized by the state you can be sure the bad guys will devote resources to that and maybe put the “assault weapon” ban on the back burner.
Example 2: Suppose the initiative did make it on the ballot and the good guys have to win. They can draw upon reserves allocated for national issues if needed but that would weaken plans for actual gains at the higher level. It’s getting down to election day and the good guys are currently ahead in the polls (private and/or public). Barring some last minute surprise from the bad guys they don’t need to use those reserves. If they know a surprise is coming and what that surprise is they can not only have done the polls they can have the countering ads ready for release on the same day the “surprise” hits the street. If they know the bad guys don’t have any money left and are running on empty they can send the reserves home and concentrate on making gains at the national level rather than winning a fight that was already won.
Example 3: Suppose the bad guys are having some internal problems. Maybe one of their key leaders has health problems and doesn’t really want to step aside for someone else. Maybe their finances are in poor shape (only the 501(c)(3)/charities orgs and publically traded corps have to make public disclosure of their finances, not the private political organizations). Or maybe they lost their building lease and have to move. Not only are time and money spent in the finding a new building and the actually moving but their phone numbers will have to change in the process. Or maybe some key personal are moving on to higher paying jobs in a different field and replacements need to be hired and trained.
Having knowledge of these troubles may mean the good guys can time a critical amendment to some legislation when the opposition is least able to put up resistance.
The bottom line is that yes we know, in general terms, what the bad guys are going to do and we can figure things out very quickly once they do go public. We may have larger war chests and more committed voters but that may not amount to anything if those resources can’t be deployed in the most effective manner. Having weeks or months advance knowledge can give us the opportunity to deploy after giving careful thought and parsimoniously allocating them thus yielding fantastic benefits. The benefit of having a spy is all in the timing. Time is a dimension that many people don’t take into account when going into a fight. They look at numbers like dollars, votes, tanks, ships, bomb yields, weapon accuracy, magazine capacity, penetration depth in gelatin and the caliber of their carry gun. But it doesn’t matter in the slightest that you carry a .45 with three spare magazines and can put ten rounds under a quarter at 25 yards if you opponent puts a .22LR bullet from his zip gun into your eyeball from three feet away before you get a chance to draw.
Knowledge gives us time and this can be more important than almost anything else.
Thank you Mary and whoever else might be out there, unknown and under appreciated; yielding results that surpass the benefits we get from highly compensated executives enjoying fame and wealth. I consider you a fallen hero.