Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Rape Apology, State Department Style

The Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church have been at the center of a global maelstrom of outrage as their decades old conspiracies to hide a world-wide campaign of rape and child abuse at the hands of its minions has collapsed. Faced with angry believers who are cutting back on donations and often abandoning the Church altogether, the Holy See struggles to minimize and evade what historians may one day consider Catholicism's death blow.

Throughout it all, the United States government and state and local regimes have largely remained quiet on the matter. Local and state law enforcement have conducted investigations into specific cases. Individual priests have been tried and convicted. A few states have rewritten legal statues to allow victims of predator Catholic clergy more time to bring their victimizers to justice. However, there has been no large-scale investigations or seizures of evidence one would expect in an international sex abuse scandals. One cannot image a corporation or even a nation- state receiving the kid-glove treatment the American government has extended the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church.

Recently released State Department cables provide a partial explanation into the American government attitude toward the matter. Despite being heavily redacted on national security grounds, the cables reveal that the American government has been tracking the scandals, the Vatican reaction to them, and has adopted a policy of downplaying and minimizing the native Vatican rape culture with combination of silence, evasion, and the promotion of Catholic Church good works.

Below are four cables classified “Secret” meaning their unauthorized disclosure was believed to pose the risk of “grave damage” to American national security. This is the second highest level of classification used by the American government (Top Secret is the highest). Much of them is redacted on the grounds that the information contained within is properly classified. Only a few redactions are on the grounds of personal privacy. The cables were released to me in response to a FOIA request I had submitted on my behalf relating to the Catholic Church sex abuse scandals.

The most important things revealed in these cables is the State Department's decision to downplay and minimize the scope and horror of the Catholic Church rape scandals. EMBASSY Vatican's “Suggested Press Guidance”

  1. (U) To the extent possible, it would be best for USG spokespersons to avoid commenting on the scandal or on day-to-day developments related to the crisis. However, if pressed, Embassy Vatican plans to use the following guidance in responding to questions on the crisis or on the Pope's pastoral letter:
    • Sexual abuse of anyone, anywhere, is abhorrent. It is especially troubling when allegations of abuse concern anyone who works in a position of trust with young people.
    • The highest priority when dealing with such allegations is to support the victims, including taking actions to prevent further abuses.
      Here is where the State Department descends into rape apology
    • It is important to distinguish between the atrocities committed by a few individuals and the great good being done by Catholic clergy and members of religious orders around the world.
The final bit of press guidance is statement that beyond the three listed actions the Embassy Vatican staff will only mention the Pope's call for a “process of repentance, healing and renewal” and refuse further comment on the matter except to express their “hope that all parties in this situation find healing and justice.”

Do not let the title “Suggested Press Guidance” fool you; these actions were already being implemented by Embassy Vatican. The paragraph prior to the one I just quoted states:

It's also critically important to refrain from tarring all Catholic clergy with the same brush, even in the face of lurid and graphic reporting on these cases. For every ordained person involved in such atrocities, there are hundreds or thousands of others elsewhere carrying out there duties, often in dangerous circumstances, to support their own and other faith communities. Sister Marie Claude Naddaf of Syria, a longtime campaigner against human trafficking and 2010 International Women of Courage Award Recipient, is one example. Father John Phuong Dinh Toai of Vietnam, who is doing interfaith work helping children infecting (sic) with HIV/AIDS, is another. Meanwhile, Catholic organizations – according to UN estimates-- provide the majority of health care services in sub-Saharan Africa. The list could, of course, go on.

Under the Catholic Church's auspices, a lot of good is accomplished. There is no denying it. However, this does not excuse the Catholic Church's tolerance of rape conspiracies around the globe involving thousands of direct perpetrators and thousands more, including the highest levels of the Vatican, who covered it up. Not to mention the bystanders who were aware of this and did nothing, possibly while engaging in good will acts like those discussed above.

Many rapists are nice people. Rapists have jobs. Rapists are usually good boys. They usually, if not almost always, do the right thing. Except when they rape.

Another cable, 10 VATICAN 59 shows the “ Suggested Press Guidance” was infected at least a month later when it is reported in paragraph 13 that the Ambassador and DCM were refusing interview requests form media programs such as Sixty Minutes, Good Morning America, and Larry King.

Disturbingly, the cables reveal that the Embassy Vatican was reporting on the activities of Americans, specifically SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests). Much of what was reported on SNAP has been redacted on B(1) grounds specifically protection of sources and foreign government information, but is known that Embassy Vatican informed state and numerous other American consulates and embassies about a March 25, 2010 protest at St. Peter's basilica.

I have contacted SNAP for their response to this information and to gain more insight into the protest. Any response will be posted in a future post.

Given the cables are posted below, I am not going to deluge with all the fun tidbits revealed within them. Below are the three most interesting bits of information to come out of this FOIA release:

  1. Paragraph 11 of 10 VATICAN 59 reveals that one of the reasons priests are kept celebate is to save money. Priests with families cost more than those without attachments.
  2. In the first paragraph of 10 VATICAN 59, the American Embassy describes the Vatican's reaction to the sex abuse scandal as being handled “very poorly.”
  3. The second paragraph of 10 VATICAN 59 reveals that a Norweigan bishop was removed not for mismanagement as was widely believed, but because it was discovered he had abused an underage boy. 

    10 Vatican 33                                                            

    10 Vatican 44                                                            

    10 Vatican 57                                                            

    10 Vatican 59                                                            

Monday, December 27, 2010

10 Vatican 33: A Sausage Making View of State Department Censoring

Before Cablegate was a twinkle in Julian Assange’s eye, I had a FOIA request submitted on my behalf to the United States State Department regarding the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandals. At the time, I was flirting with the idea of abandoning special education for a career as a freelance journalist and reporter extraordinaire. Since my learning disabilities preclude easy accuracy with grammar and syntax, I have opted to be an investigative blogger of the hobbyist-variety. However, my FOIA requests have gradually worked their way though the system and I write expose based on them.

Approximately year after the FOIA request was submitted, I received four cables from AMEMBASSY VATICAN (The American Embassy in the Vatican) from the State Department’s FOIA staff. One them was 10 VATICAN 33, a cable formerly classified “SECRET,” meaning at its creation, unauthorized access to or leaking of the cable would have caused “grave damage" to American national security. Not surprisingly, portions of it are still redacted in the released version.

10 Vatican 33                                                            

However, thanks to WikiLeaks, the redacted portions of this cable are available for public consumption, giving the average reader a direct, Vienna sausage making view of what the AMEMBASSY Vatican holds to be “Secret” and capable of endangering American lives.

Below are the excised portions of the cable I posted above with some light commentary. For the record, I have deleted the daffy ASCII characters contained within the WikiLeaks copy of the cable that I am posting here. The WikiLeaks version is available at their official site.

Section 1- Initially classified “Confidential” in its entirety; a brief portion was released in response to my FOIA request. Here are the redacted portions:

Vatican and Irish officials first concern was for the victims, but that reality was sometimes obscured in the events that followed which also cast a chill on Irish-Vatican relations. The Vatican believes the Irish government failed to respect and protect Vatican sovereignty during the investigations. Much of the Irish public views the Vatican protests as pettily procedural and failing to confront the real issue of horrific abuse and cover-up by Church officials. The resulting profound crisis in the Irish Church, meanwhile, required intervention by Pope Benedict, who met with Irish Church leaders in December 2009 and in February 2010 to discuss next steps. Although the Pope will address a pastoral letter on the situation to Irish Catholics in the next few weeks, both the Vatican and the local Catholic Church agree that further follow-up should be handled domestically in Ireland. The Vatican’s relatively swift response to this crisis showed it learned key lessons from the U.S. sex abuse scandals in 2002 but still left some Catholics - in Ireland and beyond -- feeling disaffected. The crisis will play out for years inside Ireland, where future revelations are expected, even as new clerical sex abuse allegations are being made in Germany. End Summary

Sections 4-7 were withheld from me in their entirety. The State Department’s redactors went as far as to obscure which sections of the cable were being withheld. From the copy of the cable provided to me, it is unclear whether or not portions of section 3 are being redacted despite being the section being classified as Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) and thus not illegible for b(1) protection. 

4. (S/NF) While Vatican contacts immediately expressed deep sympathy for the victims and insisted that the first priority was preventing a recurrence, they also were angered by how the situation played out politically. The Murphy Commission’s requests offended many in the Vatican, the Holy See’s Assessor Peter Wells (protect strictly) told DCM, because they saw them as an affront to Vatican sovereignty. Vatican officials were also angered that the Government of Ireland did not step in to direct the Murphy Commission to follow standard procedures in communications with Vatican City. Adding insult to injury, Vatican officials also believed some Irish opposition politicians were making political hay with the situation by calling publicly on the government to demand that the Vatican reply. Ultimately, Vatican Secretary of State (Prime Minister equivalent) Bertone wrote to the Irish Embassy that requests related to the investigation must come through diplomatic channels via letters rogatory.
5. (S/NF) The Irish Embassy to the Holy See offered to facilitate better communications between the Irish commission and the Holy See, but neither party took any further action. Irish Ambassador Noel Fahey (formerly ambassador to Washington) told DCM this was the most difficult crisis he had ever managed. The Irish government wanted to be seen as cooperating with the investigation because its Education Department was implicated, but did not want to insist that the Vatican answer the requests because they had come outside of regular channels. In the end, the Irish government decided not to press the Vatican to reply, according to Fahey’s Deputy, Helena Keleher. Moreover, Keleher
VATICAN 00000033 002.2 OF 003
told Polchief the CDF probably did not have much to add to the inquiry. Regarding the request for the Nuncio to testify, Keleher said the GOI understood that foreign ambassadors are not required or expected to appear before national commissions. Nevertheless, Keleher thought the Nuncio in Ireland made things worse by simply ignoring the requests.
6. (C) The resentment caused by the Murphy Commission tactics - and failure of the Government of Ireland to temper them -- now has worn off a little in Rome. This is in part because the legal and diplomatic questions posed by the Commission’s demands are now moot since the Murphy Commission released its report in November 2009. It substantiated many of the claims and also concluded that some bishops tried to cover up the abuses, putting the interests of the Church ahead of those of the victims.
7. (C) The Irish people’s anger, however, has not worn off. The refusal of the Holy See to respond to the Murphy Commission questions caused a furor of public disbelief in Ireland when it became known. Foreign Minister Martin was forced to call in the Papal Nuncio to discuss the situation. The Irish public was not mollified. Resentment toward the Church in Rome remains very high, particularly because of the institutionalized cover-up of abuse by the Catholic Church hierarchy. In the wake of the scandal, four of the five bishops named in the Murphy Report have resigned; the fifth has refused to quit. Archbishop Martin’s Christmas Eve Midnight Mass announcement of the resignation of two of the five key bishops named in the Murphy report was met be thunderous applause, which he had a hard time quieting.
A few words were redacted on National Security grounds in section 8. Specifically, it was viewed as “prejudicial” to American interests and security that the Vatican know that AMEMBASSY VATICAN thought the normally cautious Vatican moved with with uncharacteristic speed to deal with the sex abuse scandal.
8.(C)Meanwhile, the normally cautious Vatican moved with uncharacteristic speed to address the internal Church crisis. The Pope convoked a meeting with senior Irish clerical leaders on December 11, 2009. Irish Cardinal Sean Brady and Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin came to Rome and met with the Pontiff, who was flanked by Cardinal Bertone (the Vatican Prime Minster equivalent), and four other Cardinals whose duties include oversight over some aspect of the Irish situation. At the end of the meeting, the Vatican issued a statement saying that the Pope shared the outrage, betrayal, and shame of Irish Catholics over the deliberations, that he was praying for the victims, and that the Church would take steps to prevent recurrences. Archbishop Martin told reporters afterwards that he expected a major shake-up of the Church in Ireland.

Sections 9-10 are provided without redaction. However, sections 11-14 are redacted with the exception of two titles. I present them below:

11. (C/NF) Judging by media commentary, many non-Irish Catholics felt the Vatican’s response to the crisis was a good start but more was needed. Irish Deputy Head of Mission Keleher told polchief on February 18 that she sympathized with victims’ groups’ criticism of the Vatican statement, because it was not more focused on the pain caused to the victims. Victims’ associations also have complained that the Pope did not issue an apology for the abuses and that he did not order the removal of the remaining bishop accused of the cover-up. (Archbishop Martin’s comments in December apparently had convinced many that the Vatican would remove the errant bishops if they did not quit.)
Comment: Some Lessons Learned, but Crisis Will Play Out for Years
--------------------------------------------- --------------------
VATICAN 00000033 003.2 OF 003
12. (C) In keeping with the Catholic practice of making local bishops ultimately responsible for the management of their dioceses, we expect that the locus of the crisis and measures to address it will remain largely with the Catholic Church in Ireland. One exception will be on decisions of whether to accept or reject resignation offers from the implicated bishops -- or the removal of the bishop who refused to offer his resignation -- which rest with the Pope. The other big exception will be the Pope’s pastoral letter to Irish Catholics, in which the Vatican may address concerns and criticisms about statements and actions undertaken to date. After this, though, the Vatican will return to the background - while keeping an eye on the Irish bishops and continuing to urge them to speak with one voice. Our contacts at the Vatican and in Ireland expect the crisis in the Irish Catholic Church to be protracted over several years, as only allegations from the Dublin Archdiocese have been investigated to date. Investigations of allegations from other Archdioceses will lead, officials in both states lament, to additional painful revelations.
13. (C) In Ireland, these abuse scandals occurred at the end of a long period of increasing secularization of society - and may further reduce the influence of the Catholic Church. Indeed, the great vehemence of the Irish reaction to this crisis reflects how far the Catholic Church in Ireland has fallen. Once ensconced in the Irish Constitution, the Irish Catholic Church reached the height of its prestige and power with the 1979 visit of Pope John Paul II but it has been falling ever since. At the same time, the Murphy Report reflects Irish shame over the collaboration of Ireland’s state bodies, including its schools, courts and police, in the appalling abuses and cover-up that occurred for decades.
14. (S) Vatican analysts, meanwhile, agree that the Holy See’s handling of the Irish scandal shows the Vatican learned some important lessons from the U.S. sex abuse scandal of 2002. By acting quickly to express horror at allegations, to label the alleged acts both crimes and sins, and to call in the local leaders to discuss how to prevent recurrences, the Vatican limited - but certainly did not eliminate - the damage caused to the Church’s standing in Ireland and worldwide. Unfortunately, given the growing abuse scandal in Germany, it may need to deploy those lessons again before long. End Comment.

Section 15 mentions that Ambassador Diaz helped to create the cable.
I cannot say that I find anything within these cables that would case “grave damage” to American national security. Public information such as the Irish cheering the demise of rape apologists and protectors hardly seems “prejudicial” to American interests. Most of this information is public domain information already and shocking to no one with a basic familiarity with the situation.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mr. C Had a FBI File

For fans of the publicly mild-mannered Tom Bosley, a gentleman best-known for playing “Mr. C.” on the hit TV show “Happy Days” and Father Frank Dowling on “Father Dowling Mysteries ” it is probably a shock to discover Mr. Bosley possessed a FBI file. The FBI confirmed this in response to a FOIA request this author had submitted to the FBI after the public announcement of Mr. Bosley's demise.

Thanks to the much criticized FBI record retention schedule, it appears that the American public will forever denied access to and knowledge of the contents of Mr. Bosley's FBI file and the events which led to its creation. Like Bobby Thomson, we are left to speculate as to whether Bosley was a suspected or actual communist or “fellow traveler,” a victim of an obsessed or crazed fan, or just a peripheral figure in an investigation of which even he might have been unaware.

FBI MR. C. Response Letter                                                            

Saturday, December 11, 2010

NSA Refuses to Confirm or Deny Having Underwear Bomber Information

Despite extensive media coverage and public comment, in response to a recent FOIA request, the National Security Agency has declared that it will “neither confirm nor deny,” possessing information or records pertaining to the “Underwear Bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and Northwest Airlines Flight 253.

NSA Glomar Response to FOIA RE: Underwear Bomber                                                            

Sunday, December 5, 2010

One WikiLeaks Cable Has Already Been Released

Much has been made over the last week as WikiLeaks has been releasing portions of what is believed to be a cache of over 250,000 State Department cables believed to have been given to them by Pfc. Bradley Manning.

However, below is evidence that at least one of the cables was previously released by State Department itself creating the possibly other cables were also be declassified by the State Department through mechanism like FOIA and the Mandatory Declassification Review Process. 

The cable in question is 75TEHRAN2069 Click the link to access the WikiLeaks' version of it. Below is the electronic copy of it released to the National Archives by the State Department and available through the National Archives' NARA's Access to Archival Databases (AAD). Except for formating and the decision by WikiLeaks (I presume) to call the cable 75TEHRAN2069 instead of 74TEHRAN02069, the cable content is exact. (Of course the dropped "0" could mean that WikiLeaks or Manning altered the documents, but I doub this.)


As the cables are released, it would be fruitful to compare them to cables in the State Department's Electronic Reading Room and the National Archives to see how many have been previously released. Scholars should also consult their personal archives and post any relevant cables that they have had given to them by the State Department