As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Colonel's Secret Email Recipe

This Col. Steven Boylan/Glenn Greenwald scandal is insane. Greenwald got an unsolicited email from Boylan, who's St. Petraeus' top PR guy in Iraq, basically has a habit of writing threatening, belligerent emails to liberal bloggers and journallists who write things that run counter to his and his boss' agenda. There's a persistent pattern of this: Kevin Drum, Noah Schachtman at Wired, Greg Mitchell from Editor & Publisher. So Boylan's email to Greenwals fits that pattern. Only Boylan adamantly denies writing it. This despite Greenwald sending authenticated emails and this "disputed" one to computer experts who have basically attributed those emails to the same source. And ever AFTER this has all come out, Boylan is sending replies off to various commenters at Greenwald's place. The walls are closing in on this guy, and it's clear he's lying about the provenance of the initial email. I have no idea why he wouldn't just fess up and get it over with. Salon's Fahad Manjoo has plenty more.

Is the military's top spokesman in Iraq a loose cannon who routinely fires off angry, impetuous e-mails to bloggers who criticize the war and the spin surrounding it? Or is Col. Steven Boylan, instead, an innocent victim -- an online wallflower whose identity has been hijacked by a pro-war hacker who has managed to break into the most well-fortified space on the planet in order to taunt lefty critics? Neither scenario paints a comforting picture of the situation in Iraq -- and even though the e-mails in question are coming from military servers in Iraq, the military seems strangely uninterested in solving the mystery of who is writing them [...]

On Tuesday, I spoke to several e-mail experts who have compared the disputed Boylan message with other letters the colonel has sent. The experts tell a clear story: If the message is a fake, as Boylan claims, it is a very well-done fake. Experts say that anyone who forged the e-mail to Greenwald would have had to find a way to get into the military's network, either physically (by having access to Boylan's computer, say) or through some kind of hack.

Every e-mail message includes a trail showing how it was routed through the Internet to get from the sender's computer to the receiver's -- this information is included in what's called an e-mail's "header." Greg Mitchell of Editor and Publisher and Kevin Drum of the Washington Monthly provided Salon with e-mail correspondence they've had with Boylan. Headers on those messages, as well as headers on other messages that Boylan has sent to Greenwald and a Salon editor, match the header of the disputed e-mail -- they all show Boylan's messages coming through the military's computers in Iraq.

It's enough to make you sad for Boylan... until you realize what's going on here.

The overarching point here is that the US military is becoming increasingly a political organization, using PR flacks to run interference against anyone who questions their policies. That's a danger for democracy, to be sure. Boylan has written columns for far-right mags like Human Events while employed giving the supposedly full picture in Iraq. This guy is a right-wing hack who got caught; but he's been at this a while, and I don't think the American taxpayer should be paying this guy to jump into blog comments and give a right-wing spin on things, which he believes is actually his job. He's a partisan operative:

In the fall of 2004, campaign reporters for the Los Angeles Times found Michelle Boylan and three Boylan children manning a Bush-Cheney phone bank in Wisconsin. "We're here because we think it's important to keep President Bush in office," Michelle Boylan told the Times.

Hell, I'm as partisan as the next guy. But this has now become embedded into the highest levels of the military, and honestly it colors almost everything they say with suspicion.

Let's give Greenwald the last word:

In his email with the reader who has asked that her name not be used, Boylan wrote: "I have my serious doubts that any of what has been said is real and I have no reason to engage Mr. Greenwald," and further wrote that "errors" in the email "indicates (sic) that whoever sent it if in fact it was really ever sent and I have my doubts, does not completely know my career timeline." He is, rather unmistakably, suggesting here that I fabricated the email.

I'll just note initially that this is exactly the kind of behavior that we have seen repeatedly over the last six years from political officials in the Bush administration -- lashing out at people who bring wrongdoing to light. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill left the administration and revealed embarrassing information about how Bush officials were planning an attack on Iraq before 9/11, and suddenly, Bush officials began whispering to reporters that he had committed crimes by removing classified documents which he used to write his book. Joe Wilson wrote an Op-Ed debunking falsehoods in the State of the Union address and suddenly he is the target of a vicious White House demonization campaign as well as a principal subject of a GOP-issued Senate Intelligence Committee report.

This is really bad, and the military needs to respond quickly.

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