Column: Sheep-dipping: The unintended consequences
Ryan Summerlin May 17, 2013
If this column were about Benghazi-gate, it would be the eighth such column about the September 11, 2012, al-Qaeda-led attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya — an attack that raged for almost eight hours.
But this column is about an event that took place at the White House last Friday. The term that comes to mind is that a journalistic “sheep-dipping” took place.
As all public-relations agencies know, Friday afternoon is the best time to try to hide bad news. Most everyone is rushing for home and trying to leave the cares of the world behind. That’s why last Friday afternoon, was selected for the Benghazi “sheep-dipping.”
Farmers and ranchers dip sheep in a special solution to remove unwanted bugs from their wool. A sheep enters the dipping bath as an un-dipped sheep and emerges out the other side as “sheep-dipped” — an animal transformed.
In modern espionage terms, “sheep-dipping” is where you take one of your agents and you give him or her an alternate identity. Through the sheep-dipping process, you hope to rid your agent or case officer of all vestiges of his or her old self so that agent or case officer can emerge with an entirely new persona.
Last Friday afternoon, the White House invited a “select few” members of the White House Press Corps behind closed doors for an off-the-record, deep-background briefing on Benghazi. In Washington press parlance, “deep-background” means the reporters will be told what the Administration wants them to think about the Benghazi story; however, the reporters must agree to not disclose who said what.
While it is not unusual for the White House to reward certain individual reporters with exclusive interviews with high-ranking White House officials and even with the president, it is highly unusual to cull the White House Press Corps into two groups of sheep: Those who are going to be “sheep-dipped” with the Administration’s version of Benghazi and those who are not.
First of all, what kind of journalist would consent to attend? Secondly, what kind of media organization would want its reporters to be there? Those who attended will forever bear the “mark of the sheep dip” on their journalistic foreheads. Conversely, the reporters who were excluded from the closed-door session are now elevated to a position of journalistic purity.
So, what is it about Benghazi that prompted such an usual attempt to have a portion of the already sheep-like White House Press Corps go into a closed-door session as one entity and, hopefully, have them come out of the “sheep-dipping” as a new entity clutching secret notes about Benghazi that cannot be shared with their fellow journalists — let alone with their readers or viewers?
Three possibilities come to mind: 1. It may be that Mr. Obama and/or Mrs. Clinton engaged in a Black Operation that was statutorily forbidden by Congress. Or 2: that Mr. Obama and/or Mrs. Clinton were seriously derelict in the performance of their duties. And/or 3: That Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton may have been participating in the kind of cover-up that forced Richard Nixon to resign in disgrace.
But the White House forgot about the Law of Unintended Consequences. Now, the Benghazi-gate story has stronger and longer legs than ever before. Stay tuned.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, a former intelligence officer, was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.