Thursday, July 23, 2009


Governor Kaine, how much more has to come to light before you will recognize the Review Panel looking into the Virginia Tech tragedy was a bumbling failure? Governor Kaine, if you do not reopen the investigation, you may go down in history as having a singular lack of courage to find the truth surrounding this nation’s worst school shooting. You have a chance to do something really great before you leave office, but you are not. If you are counting that people will forget—you are wrong.

We now learn that Cho’s records were removed (probably in violation of the law) from the Cook Counseling Center by its then-director Robert Miller. Furthermore, according to university spokesperson, Mark Owczarski, the school asked Miller if he know the whereabouts of Cho’s records, and he reportedly said he did not. I totally agree with the words of Michael Pohle (whose son was killed by Cho), “The words that come to mind are cover-up, collusion, obstruction.”

The Governor’s Review Panel never interviewed Miller. That’s right, the Review Panel investigating the crime, never interviewed the head of the counseling center where Cho sought help. (See pages B-2 and B-3 of the report where listing the names of those at Virginia Tech who were interviewed.) That is just down right sloppy investigation.

We also know that the timeline in the Review Panel’s report was not correct. That flaw alone warrants a new investigation—a timeline is the most basic part of a crime analysis. The report repeatedly uses passive voice sentences in a concerted effort to avoid placing blame. And the review panel never had subpoena power. Without being questioned under oath, many people fail to tell the whole truth.

The report never identifies mistakes in judgments and who made those mistakes. Key players such as the state police, the ATF, and the gun dealers refused to turn over critical documents to the panel. (Subpoena power might have gotten them.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


On July 4th, I posted a comment on the blog of Zach Crizer, the news editor of Virginia Tech’s Collegiate Times, questioning his assertion that Tech is in the forefront of campus safety. Mr. Crizer’s blog, “How Much is Enough Campus Security?” which he asserted that Virginia Tech pioneered the text-message alert system.

I was struck by Crizer’s claim that “colleges are simply finding ways to alert students to a threat, which was the major system question in the wake of April 16.” I would argue that the major “system question” on April 16, 2007, was not the way to alert the faculty, staff, and students, but why no one activated the security system Tech had in place—immediately after the double homicide in the dormitory?

No matter how good a system is, it is only as good as the people in control of it. Mr. Crizer responded to me asking me to write a guest blog for him comparing Virginia Tech to SUNY-Oneonta. He also expressed interest in details of what Virginia Tech security lacks. The following is his email to me:

Hi Mr. Cariens,I’m Zach Crizer, the News Editor of the Collegiate Times and also the news blogger. I wanted to know if you would like to write a guest blog post for my blog detailing some aspects of SUNY-Oneonta’s security measures that Virginia Tech lacks. Clearly there are some new ideas there that Tech has not yet employed, and if you would elaborate on some of your conversations with the officials you spoke to that would add to it. I would write a blog post to go with it comparing the two from Virginia Tech’s perspective, taking into account the size differential of the schools.Let me know if you would be interested in doing this. I would probably attempt to find a way to print at least a portion of it as well. You can contact me with any questions or comments.Thanks,Zach CrizerCT News Editor(804)543-8247

This is my response. His questions can be answered in many ways—but in general, I would start by saying that Virginia Tech’s approach to the problem has not been candid in identifying mistakes in judgment, not been thorough in its research of the problem in its entirety, and certainly has not addressed all the problems that surfaced on that horrific day—April 16, 2007. True, Virginia Tech has implemented new security systems and policies, and the school is to be commended for that. But, Virginia Tech has not done all it can do.

There are schools that are looking at a broader and more comprehensive approach to preventing gun violence on campus. Indeed, that is what Virginia Tech needs to be doing. As an example of such an approach, I included in my response to Crizer a blog of my own citing SUNY-Oneonta as an excellent example of a school adopting a broad approach to security in an effort to prevent campus shootings. (That blog, and other articles related to school safety, can be found at

Granted, SUNY-Oneonta, with an enrollment of around 6,000, is smaller than Virginia Tech’s 28,000 plus student body. Some argue that Tech is too big to adopt a SUNY-style security plan. But, SUNY-Oneonta is the pilot for all 18 campuses of the SUNY system and New York will be putting the Oneonta security system on all campuses to protect the school’s nearly 80,000 students.

I would argue that if SUNY can do it on 18 campuses with 80,000 students, Tech can do it on one campus with 27,000. The real problem may not be the size of the school; the real problem may be the school administration’s and politicians’ unwillingness to face up to the shortcomings of April 16, 2007—address those shortcomings and then allocate the funds and resources necessary to improve security.

In my face-to-face talks with law enforcement officials—ranging from one of the chief investigators of Columbine, to campus security officers in New York and Ohio—almost all scratch their heads and express wonder at what goes on in Virginia when it comes to protecting our schools. One law enforcement official with over 20 years experience in the field of campus security, and first hand experience of a school shooting—who asked to remain anonymous—said his state and school would never permit threatening behavior to go unheeded the way school officials did at Virginia Tech. He simply shook his head and referred to Virginia as the Jurassic Park of guns on campus and school safety.

I keep going back to the human factor in school safety. I have yet to see or hear Virginia Tech issue a statement that any threat or menacing acts will not be tolerated. At SUNY-Oneonta, the chief of police has the authority to immediately remove any person from the campus who he deems a threat. At Wright State University in Ohio, I was told the same is true. In fact, if there is a question of the individual’s mental stability, the individual is put in squad car and taken to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. There is no pondering, no calling of policy groups, no bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo. The individual will not be allowed back on campus until that evaluation is complete, and he or she is deemed safe and not a threat.

There are so many aspects to school safety beyond an electronic or any warning system. Part of the problem may be that school presidents are hired for their ability to raise money, not their ability to react in a crisis. Perhaps the hiring profile for the leaders of our colleges and universities should be changed to help ensure safety. Or, perhaps a change of rules is needed? For example, granting Chief Flinchum the authority to close the campus without having to consult the school’s president would be a step in the right direction.

The more I investigate, the more concerned I am. If you look at Tech President Steger’s own words about the improvements on the campus, what does he say? In fact, his words underscore how little Virginia Tech has done. President Steger’s words are, in many respects, a self-indictment. Compare what he had to say about security at Virginia Tech after the slaying of Xin Yang on January 21, 2009, with SUNY-Oneonta’s security:

1. “At Virginia Tech we have added 11 positions to the VTPD and now have a 70- person police and security force.” Now, look at the security measures the State University New York-Oneonta (SUNY-Oneonta) has enacted:

a. The ability to lock down every building on campus (with the exception of the gym) with four strokes on the computer keyboard.

b. Radio systems in all buildings for emergency use.

c. Blue prints of all campus buildings on hand in the police headquarters in case of an emergency.

d. A campus-wide siren for notification that there is an emergency on campus.

e. SUNY-Oneonta will soon have in place a video and card access system for all campus buildings.

f. SUNY-Oneonta has bought and installed a sophisticated key system for all buildings. The keys cannot be duplicated.

2. According to Steger, “University officials continue to work very closely with each other to identify and evaluate students in need. The Treat Assessment team and the CARE Team meet regularly to assist students with problems in school or personal life. The Threat Assessment Team also intervenes when it appears that an individual could be a threat to self or others in our community (students, employees, or visitors).” Compare Steger’s words with the program at SUNY-Oneonta:

a. A Behavioral Assessment Team that meets every week to discuss student problems and activities. The group is made up of Police Chief Ingersoll, the Director of Counseling, the Director of Residence Life, the Associate Vice President for Judicial Affairs, the Vice President of Student Development, and the Health Center Director.

b. SUNY-Oneonta has a full-time Emergency Management Coordinator.

c. SUNY-Oneonta regularly reviews its crime prevention security analysis for campus buildings.

3. Steger pointed to the fact that, “The university works closely with the Community Service Board in ordering commitments of students in need of immediate counseling (Temporary Detention Orders).” Now take a look at SUNY-Oneonta:

a. Students are given a full security briefing as part of their campus orientation.

b. The Chief of Police has the power to act immediately and to take whatever action he deems necessary if an individual is thought to be a danger to him or herself or others.

c. Each staff and faculty member has at her or his desk a bright orange Crisis Management folder for immediate and easy reference. The folder contains phone numbers and contact instructions.

4. Steger also asserted that, “During an emergency the university can use several notification methods, including VT Alerts. More people within the university have been trained to issue emergency alerts through the university emergency notification system. First-responders can asses the scene and determine whether an immediate alert or notification should be issued by the police department.” Good start, but not enough. Look at SUNY:

a. SUNY-Oneonta has the ability to notify all students, staff, and faculty of an emergency through NY ALERT—a cell phone/email/text messaging system. All New York State University campuses will have this system within the near future.

b. The school is linked to major criminal data bases in Albany.

c. The University Police Department has an ambulance on hand, on campus.

d. It is a state law that university police departments on state-affiliated schools must have a Memorandum of Understanding with the state police on immediate emergency response and actions. SUNY-Oneonta has such a memorandum and maintains close ties with the New York State Police and the city of Oneonta Police Department.

President Steger’s words are a disappointment. If the school had the safety of its students, faculty, and staff as a top priority, Virginia Tech would have a far better system of security and emergency response than his words indicate.

I keep going back to the human factor in the problem, and the poor decisions made on the morning of April 16, 2007—and in the days following the tragedy. For example, less than six weeks after the shootings the school signed an agreement with one of the nation’s largest public relations firms, Burson-Marsteller, to spin the story of the tragedy in such a way as to do minimal damage to Virginia Tech and its administration. The school paid $663,000.00 to that public relations firm. Virginia Tech has an office that deals with public relations, the school has some of the best minds in the country, yet it spent nearly $700,000.00 on public relations. That money would have been better spent on improving campus security; and when you compare it to the $100,000.00 that the victims’ families received, the $663,000.00 becomes shameful.

Virginia Tech should be in the forefront of organizing better campus security in Blacksburg and state-wide. I am afraid it is not. Virginia Tech’s emphasis on “emergency notification systems” is only a small part of the problem. In fact, this emphasis on “systems” has diverted attention away from other, serious aspects of the problem our schools confront. Virginia has been the site of two of the nation’s worst school shootings, yet Virginia politicians and academic leaders have been sluggish in responding to the threat. I am afraid the real problem is: protecting careers, unwillingness to allocate funds, and poor leadership.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Professor Helen de Haven was a member of the founding faculty of the Appalachian School of Law in 1997, was the first Dean of Students at the school 1999-2000, and was at the school on January 16, 2002—the day Peter Odighizuwa shot and killed Dean Anthony Sutin, Professor Thomas Blackwell, and student Angela Dales. Odighizuwa also wounded three other students before being wrestled to the ground by unarmed students. Professor de Haven is currently an Associate Professor of Law, John Marshall Law School-Atlanta.

Professor de Haven’s first-hand experience with the horrors of a school shooting, coupled with her legal background and professional credentials put her in a unique position to bring powerful, insightful analysis to the problem of violence on our school campuses. Her thought-provoking and well-researched paper, “The Elephant in the Ivory Tower: Rampages in Higher Education and the Case for Institutional Liability,” raises disturbing questions about this nation’s institutions of higher learning—specifically, the agonizingly slow pace the nation’s colleges and universities are addressing the growing problem of violence on school grounds. Professor de Haven’s article appears in The Journal of College and University Law, a peer-reviewed journal published by the Notre Dame Law School—the citation for the article is 35 JC&UL 503 (2009). Her article, unfortunately, leaves the reader with the impression that many of this nation’s schools approach the threat of gun violence on campus with apathy, confusion, and a denial of responsibility.

It is clear that 10 years after the shootings at Columbine; seven years after the killings at the Appalachian School of Law; two years after the massacre at Virginia Tech—as well as the scores of other school shootings along the way—far too many school officials, law enforcement personnel, and politicians remain mystified and perplexed over how to meet the threat of school violence. All their crocodile tears and all their hand wringing have not produced the analysis, the will, or the determination necessary to adopt effective measures to minimize the threat.

No one wants to think about—much less talk about—the prospect of school shootings. Many parents with school-age children run away from the subject; the subject is too painful for them to contemplate. Yet they are precisely the people who should be thinking—and acting—to prevent future violence. I also am struck by how little so many in positions of authority know about their duties, rights, and responsibilities when it comes to individuals on school grounds; individuals who may be a threat to themselves or others. True, there has been some progress; some school authorities, law enforcement officials, and politicians are making progress, but they are in the minority.

The thesis of Professor de Haven’s article is:

“It (the article) supposes that there is a duty inherent in the academic enterprise to safeguard the class rooms, hallways, and other common spaces in which learning occurs. It (the article) suggests that an academic institution’s failure to reduce predictable violence should create liability to the victims and a duty to mitigate their suffering. It (the article) joins the ranks of legal scholars who argue that we must develop a model of shared responsibility that better serves the fundamental purposes of higher education than the present arm’s length relationship between most schools and their students.”

She further asserts that, “Though they are still relatively uncommon, school shootings in higher education are happening more frequently, and they are likely to increase unless we in the academy learn from out collective history. We need a new consensus about how best to keep ourselves safe without destroying academic freedoms and pedagogical values that best define us.”

Having read Professor de Haven’s words and examined the events surrounding school shootings here in Virginia, I can only say that unfortunately the academic community is far from reaching a consensus on how best to tackle the problem of keeping our schools safe. Here in Virginia, for example, school officials at both the Appalachian School of Law and Virginia Tech did not sufficiently heed the concerns and warning of faculty members. When schools ignore faculty expressions of fear for their personal safety, as well as for the safety of their students, something is terribly, terribly wrong!

At both the Appalachian School of Law and Virginia Tech, school officials responded to warnings with attitudes ranging from sarcastic indifference to bureaucratic bumbling:

According to court documents filed in the Wise County, Virginia, then-President of the Appalachian School, Lucius Ellsworth, responded to female faculty members concerns over the threatening behavior of Peter Odighizuwa by saying, “You women and your hormones and your intuition … there is nothing for you to be afraid of … it will be ok.” A few weeks later, Odighizuwa killed three people and wounded three others.

At Virginia Tech, there is a long list of missed opportunities to get Cho the treatment he needed at the Cook Counseling Center. Cho contacted the center several times seeking help. Yet, when he sought out the center’s help he was triaged over the phone twice and when he met with a counselor in person, he failed to receive a meaningful assessment or diagnosis. Incredibly, all records of Cho’s dealings with the school’s counseling center have been “lost.” Indeed, one professor saw Cho as such a threat, that she threatened to resign unless he was remove from her class—and the counseling center has lost all its records on Cho.

On the shooting at the law school, Professor de Haven comments, “There were also larger questions about the integrity of its student retention practices, its lack of resources for dealing with problematic students, its internal staff relations and communications, and its tolerance for uncivil and threatening behavior.” Professor de Haven’s paper examines five other school shootings in addition to the law school and Virginia Tech. When I read her words, I was struck by the fact that the same unbelievable and enigmatic behavior the schools in Virginia could be said of nearly all the five other schools she examines.

“… In some cases it is hard to see what more the school could have done. Other cases raise serious questions about the fundamental inadequacy of the institutional response to early warning signs, to the immediate peril, and/or to the individual and community casualties.”

“… Though they are still relatively uncommon, school shootings in higher education are happening more frequently, and they are likely to increase unless we in the academy learn from our collective history. We need a new consensus about how best to keep ourselves safe without destroying the academic freedoms and pedagogical values that best define us.”

One of the most interesting assertions made by Professor de Haven deals with the reluctance of institutions of higher learning to publicly examine or even acknowledge the role and duty they have to protect against and prevent violence. “Despite the high settlement rate, institutions of higher education have never acknowledged either that the nature of their relationship with students or that the nature of the educational process creates a duty to protect academic space from violent conduct by members of the academic community. Since they resist a duty to identify or prevent violent behaviors arising in the academic context, they are also able to argue in almost any specific case, that violence produced or exacerbated by the perpetrator’s educational experience was not foreseeable. …”

Professor de Haven’s words imply that many in the academic community harbor one or both of the following: an inexplicable naiveté or a callous disregard for human life. I would also not rule out an element of bureaucratic incompetence and mediocrity. In fact, reading some of the explanations and statements put out by individuals defending the actions leading up to, during, and following the shootings at the Appalachian School of Law and Virginia Tech University, I could not help but wonder, “Are these schools run by carnival shills?” For example, in the case of both schools, faculty members expressed fear for their personal safety to senior management—the schools both deny prior knowledge that the killers were a threat. A particularly distasteful action by both schools was to brag about the fact that the shootings had worked to the schools’ advantage and appeared to have a net positive affect on recruitment. Bragging about personal gain at the expense—death—of others is morally questionable.

“Nevertheless, schools have risked enough litigation about such events to produce a small and somewhat disjointed body of tort theories supporting university liability for student injury when the violence was foreseeable, the university had the power to influence the outcome, and the student victim was innocent of wrongdoing.”

Indeed, Professor de Haven asserts: “… universities have a legal duty as well as a professional obligation to make academic spaces as safe as they reasonably can for students. … We have not yet owned to the ways in which academic cultures ignore the legitimate safety concerns of their faculty and students, disable appropriate support services, and enable dangerous and violent student behaviors.”

Professor de Haven is not the only academic to identify a problem with institutional responses to faculty complaints about threatening students. Professor Carol Parker at the University of Tennessee and her colleagues tell the following story:

“A law professor was being stalked and threatened with death by a student who was failing his class. He and his colleague went to the administration. Sadly, he later reported, ‘They simply stuck their heads in the sand and said nothing was happening. For the administration, this do-nothing strategy was a win-win situation. If they took action, they might get sued. However, in the small chance that the student actually carried out his threat and killed the professor, we figured that they would hire a cheaper faculty member.’” (Smith, Thomas & Parker: Violence on Campus Practical Recommendations for Legal Education) Carol Parker’s article is accessible free on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN). The preceding anecdote does not appear in Professor de Haven’s article.

Reflecting on the above—disgraceful attitude of a school administration—I could not help but think that this was the exact same attitude that typified and in many respects made the shootings at the Appalachian School of Law and Virginia Tech inevitable.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


I was invited to give a presentation entitled, “The Intersection of Ethics and Accountability in American Government and the Issue of Politicization of Intelligence” at Wright State University. The presentation took place on May 21, 2009. The school has about 17,000 students and is located in the eastern suburbs of Dayton, Ohio, next to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. I was teaching at the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC), which is located on the air base. The invitation to make the presentation came from a former student who works at NASIC and teaches at Wright State. When I told him that I wanted to include an analysis of Governor Kaine’s Review Panel Report on the Virginia Tech tragedy, he welcomed the topic to the agenda. Indeed, the Wright State police officer whose main responsibility is the prevention of campus violence, not only attended the presentation, but met with me the next day for a broader discussion of what Wright State is doing to prevent gun violence and dealing with troubled students.


Thank you, Evan, for inviting me to come to your class this evening at Wright State University. I am so pleased that this class is examining the ethics of the intelligence profession. This is my 42nd year in intelligence and I cannot think of a time when a recommitment to ethical behavior is needed more.

Attempts to manipulate and politicize intelligence are an everyday problem all of us face in the intelligence profession. Every intelligence officer I know has faced the problem; every intelligence office I know has come under pressure to cook the books, to distort or change their intelligence conclusions. The problem of manipulation of intelligence is a problem that exists at all levels of government: federal, state, and local.

Let me begin by quoting Craig Whitney of the New York Times:

“The natural bureaucratic response is to be defensive. Officials hide behind the
veil of secrecy or national security, or executive privilege. The fear
embarrassment, personal or institutional. Elected officials fear retribution
from the electorate. Yet demanding accountability from elected and appointed
officials of the government, and insisting on revealing and correcting their
shortcomings, are the most basic rights and duties of citizens in a democracy.”

I believe that Mr. Whitney’s words apply to all of us. In everything we do whether it is Intelligence or academic studies, those around us have the right to demand ethical and honest work. If not, we should be held accountable.

CIA University teaches a course in ethics and in that course the instructors cite some disturbing statistics dealing with cheating in this nation’s colleges and universities. Here is an example of the percent of former students who admit to cheating while in school: Law schools, 63%; Arts Programs, 64%; Public Service and Government Programs, 66%; Medical Schools, 68%; Engineering Schools, 71%; and Graduate Schools in Business, 76%. These statistics indicate to me that cheating and unethical behavior in this country has reached epidemic proportions.

Turning to the Intelligence profession, there are three main sources of attempts to manipulate intelligence:

1. From consumers: All consumers approach intelligence with an agenda, a bias, or a desire for intelligence to support his or her prejudices or, in the case of politicians, their policies. I expect this pressure; this is what the consumers do. Most consumers do not want to hear that the intelligence shows their deepest help beliefs or policies may be wrong. As Craig Whitney points out, if they are politicians they fear retribution from the electorate. The fear of being wrong on the part of some politicians is so great, that no matter how well reasoned and compelling the intelligence is, they will do everything they can to undercut or prevent the distribution or acceptance of the intelligence. It is not uncommon to hear the following, “How dare you undercut the policies of our beloved president!”

2. From managers and supervisors: Managers and supervisors fear institutional embarrassment or retaliation from powerful consumers. You often hear such phrases as, “The President doesn’t want to hear that.”

3. From within yourself: Putting your career or best interests ahead of the integrity of the intelligence. This is something all of us have to fight.

But, protecting analytic objectivity must remain a paramount goal of all intelligence officers and organizations. Without objectivity, our products have no value, and we have no credibility.

The problem is compounded when you take into consideration that intelligence officers are always making judgments and conclusions based on fragmentary evidence. In other words, risk is not just part of the business, risk is the business. Intelligence analysts rarely if ever have all the pieces of the puzzle—there is always something missing. If you have all the pieces of the puzzle you are writing history.

Intelligence analysts are paid to bring clarity and understanding to problems and situations that defy clarity and understanding. We are paid for our brains; we are paid for knowledge of a given area or subject; we are paid to make judgments on fragmentary evidence. We cannot shy away from making those judgments. Our analytical judgments must be timely, clear, and address problems and/or concerns of national, state, or local interests.

Because we deal with fragmentary evidence we will make mistakes. It is humanly impossible to be correct 100% of the time—there must be room for error. Any intelligence organization with its salt must allow for error. But it does not stop there, a post mortem must be done in order to learn and to grow, in order to prevent a repetition of mistakes.

The best defense against the manipulation or politicization of intelligence is well written, well-documented analysis. The intelligence analyst’s product must be clear and concise. The analytical conclusions must be free of ambiguity. The need for clarity and precision in Intelligence writing makes it one of the most demanding forms of written English.

How many of you have ever heard comments such as this paragraph was written at the seventh grade level, or this paragraph was written at the tenth grade level? There is a way you can check the level of your writing in Word—I never do it. The test is the “snob test.” The test measures you ability to use complicated long sentences correctly—sentences no one reads. The test also measures your ability to use multi-syllable, obscure words correctly—words no one will understand except a very few. No where does the test measure content.

Intelligence writing must take these words and sentences and put them in a form such that a reasonably intelligent person, who knows little or nothing about the subject, can understand: It must be in a form that will not talk over the head of the generalist or down to the specialist—and it must retain all the complexity of the subject. That is difficult!

The secret then, to dealing with politicization of Intelligence is to produce well-written, well documented, clear and precise papers that make it difficult for the consumer to distort. In the final analysis, if you have done your job well and the consumer really cannot distort your words, he or she will simply ignore what you have produced or be forced to take it at face value and act on it.

Let me give you two examples of manipulation of Intelligence:

--The use of the words “ethnic cleansing” with regard to developments in
Bosnia in the 1990s

--The official report on the shootings at Virginia Tech.

First, let’s look at the use of the words “ethnic cleansing” by the American policy makers, the U.S. Intelligence Community, and the news media.

Having spent a great deal of my professional life working on the Balkans, having traveled and lived there, I was very interest in what happened in Bosnia. I was also puzzled why the words “ethnic cleansing” were being used and not “genocide.” I began asking questions in my Intelligence Analysis classes, “Why isn’t the Intelligence Community using genocide to describe the massacres taking place in Bosnia?”

The answer invariably was the same, “Every time we try to use ‘genocide’ we are told we are not allowed.” Everywhere I taught I asked the same question, “Why aren’t you calling the slaughter of people in Bosnia ‘genocide’?” Always the same answer, “We are not allowed.”

On one occasion I was teaching at the FBI Academy at Quantico, Virginia and asked the same question. This time a hand went up in the back of the class. Young women said, “I can tell you why. I am a lawyer specializing in international law. The U.S. is a signatory to a UN treaty stating that any signatory using the words, will activate the treaty.”

My response was, “Fine, it works for me, isn’t that why we signed the treaty in the first place.”

“You cannot use ‘genocide’ in your writing,” she answered.

I thought for a moment and then said, “Do you mean to tell me that if the Department of Agriculture uses the word ‘genocide’ the treaty will be activated?”

“Yes,” came the response.

“Well if that is the case; if the U.S. hired lawyers that allowed our government to sign such a treaty, then all of them should be fired. Neither the CIA nor any part of the Intelligence Community speaks for the U.S. government. The Intelligence Community serves an advisory function, supplying policy makers with information upon which to make policy. Those lawyers—if what you are saying is true—clearly do not understand the role Intelligence plays in supporting the government. Nor do they understand the need for any member of the Intelligence Community to use any word necessary in the English vocabulary to analyze a problem or situation.”

Needless to say I did not gain a friend at Quantico.

In April of 2008, I spoke at the annual conference of the International Law Enforcement Intelligence Agencies (IALEIA) and the Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Units (LEIU). I made the same point about the danger of word games in the production of intelligence, citing the “ethnic cleansing.” At the end of the presentation a man came up and said he was very interested in what I had to say about word games. He then said that he taught law at an Ivy League university and used that treaty in his class.

The gentleman then said, “You are right, and the FBI lawyer is wrong. There is nothing in the treaty to prevent any one, anywhere in the Intelligence Community to the word “genocide,” if it is appropriate.” He then added, “You know why Intelligence officers have been told they cannot use it, don’t you?”

“Yes,” I said, “but I want my students to tell me—we cannot use the word ‘genocide’ in official publications because it would force the politicians to make a decision!”

I told this story in a class not too long ago and a young man raised his hand. He said he was a former military Intelligence officer who had encountered the same problem. He had been stationed in Italy when the fighting was taking place in Bosnia and tried to use the word “genocide” in his Intelligence reports.

I asked him why he hadn’t been able, and the young man responded by saying that his commanding officer would not allow him to use the word “genocide” because it would be an insult to Israel and the Jewish people.

I could only respond by saying, “Incredible, absolutely incredible!”

It is amazing to me how people who know nothing about a subject will make up anything—that was the case of the commanding officer.

I lived in Yugoslavia in the early 1980s and spent time in Sarajevo. My wife and I went to the synagogue in the Bosnian capital and talked with a survivor of the holocaust. Apparently the commanding officer didn’t know that Israel recognized the killings in Bosnia for what they were—genocide. In fact, the Israelis evacuated the remaining members of the Jewish faith still living in Bosnia because they recognized that it would only be a matter of time before the genocide turned on the Jewish community.

I would argue that to avoid calling the killings in Bosnia genocide, is an insult to the Jewish people!

* * *

Every one of you in front of me will have to make decisions over whether to go with the truth or whether to go with what is best for you careers.

Now let me bring this problem of manipulation, corruption, and cover-up to a venue closer to home. We are sitting in a class room on the campus of a major state university. School safety should be of paramount concern to everyone in this room.

I live in a state that has experienced two of the worst school shootings in this nation’s history, yet officials in that state have engaged in a politicization of the problem. The painful truth is that the parallels in the two shootings are astonishing—from the profiles of the two killers, to the schools’ failure to heed warning signs, to the poor response of law enforcement officials, and finally, to the failure of elected officials and school officials to analyze the shootings and put the lessons learned from that analysis in to place in order to prevent future shootings. I am talking about the killings at the Appalachian School of Law on January 16, 2002, and the killings at Virginia Tech University on April 16, 2007.

Because of the limited time we have, I will only concentrate on the flaws of Virginia Governor Kaine’s Review Panel Report. For example:

1. The report does not identify mistakes in judgment and the people who made those mistakes.

2. The report is a classic example of conflict of interest—a government panel, appointed by the government to investigate a government agency—Virginia Tech.

3. The panel drafting the report had no subpoena power or ability to make people testify to what they knew—under oath.

4. Key players, such as the state police, did not cooperate and withheld critical documents.

5. The report engages in syrupy-sweet word games such as: “What we did well…” and “Where we need to improve…” Nowhere does the report use the correct words about failure to make the correct decisions and the devastating consequences of those failures.

6. The timeline is flawed. A timeline is the basic first step in any crime scene analysis, if that timeline is flawed, then the credibility of the whole report is seriously damaged.

7. The report never points out that Virginia Tech University violated its own safety rules.

Unfortunately the pro-gun and anti-gun extremists have high-jacked the school shooting issue. They have drowned out those of us who argue there are other, critical issues that need to be addressed in order to prevent these shootings. For example, the need to have clear rules and guidelines about how to identify disturbed students who may be a danger to themselves and others—and how to ensure that they not only get treatment, but that weapons are kept out of their hands.

In the Virginia Tech shooting, just as in the Appalachian School of Law, administrators ignored faculty warnings about the killer. It is incredible that professors. It is incredible that professors would come to school administrators and express fear for their lives, and these administrators would do nothing. It is equally incredible that this is not directly addressed in Governor Kaine’s follow-up report.

The question remains what can any of us do to prevent politicization of Intelligence and crime scene analysis? There are a number of things we can do:

1. To paraphrase the title of Virginia Tech Professor Lucinda Roy’s book, “No Right to Remain Silent,” do not remain silent—all of us have a right and responsibility to speak out when confronted with evil or danger. Many of the people in positions of authority who refuse to act are little more than playground bullies. When you confront them or threaten action, they almost always back down.

2. Most large institutions have an Inspector General—file a complaint with the Inspector General.

3. Many large institutions also have an Ombudsman. The Ombudsman’s job is to investigate charges of abuses or capricious acts of public officials. Charges of corruption of intelligence or abuse of power such as failing to respond when people feel their lives are endangered—will be investigated.

* * *

The presentation was attended by several members of the Wright State University Police, including Patrick Ammon—the officer in charge of preventing campus violence. Officer Ammon and I spent a considerable amount of time talking about campus security.

Wright State had just completed a “shooter on campus” exercise. The school apparently conducts regular training drills dedicated to responding to gun violence on campus. Officer Ammon made an interesting point as to why guns are not allowed on campus at Wright State. He asserted that if students were armed and began firing at each other, how would the police know who the actual shooter is? Furthermore, Officer Ammon speculated that the number of casualties would be far higher if the class room turned into a wild West shoot-out.

Officer Ammon also said that at his school, if the police are called and a student appears to be a threat, there is no delay—the student in question is taken to the hospital for psychological evaluation. The student is not allowed back until he or she is deemed “safe” and no longer a threat by mental health professions. I only wish that such stringent rules had been in place at the Appalachian School of Law and Virginia Tech. Perhaps, if the follow up report about the Virginia Tech shooting had been clearer and more objective, similar rules would be in place now.