Transparency is a word that gets thrown around in the Government like a baby blanket casually placed in a bassinette. It’s supposed to make the American public feel all warm and fuzzy. It wraps around us and keeps us safe. It’s a lovely thought, but the greatest irony is that very thing that keeps us warm, also shields our faces from the truth. That word truly is an amazing misnomer.
Like most commuters, I used to board the morning train into D.C. I’d sit in silence. On off days, I used to play “spot the Fed” in my head. It was a game I made up one day out of sheer boredom. Military backgrounds almost always meant perfectly shined shoes and crisp, neat and tidy clothes. Government Contractors -depending on the news from the night before, were always glued to the newspaper or smartphones. If the news was exceptionally awful, the look of panic and speedy texting was always prevalent. You could almost see the beads of sweat forming as he or she frantically flipped fingers over his or her device. If the person I was observing locked eyes with me, I’d smile and give my empathetic nod as if to say “You are in for one hell of a shitty day my friend, and I’m sorry!”
It was on one of those furiously frantic news days back in January that I sat with my coffee just watching. I hoped that there would be at least one nice thing that happened to those people that day. I finally realized that if anyone else was looking at me, I might look a little odd so I quickly pulled up my news app and loaded up The NY Times. That morning, that moment, and that article would forever change me.
There looking back at me in that article was a man with haunted eyes. He wore an orange suit, and held up a sign that read “I am here in Guantanamo, do you know where it is”? His pale complexion and thin, haggard face said it all, “Help Me”. My heart was instantly broken.
That article bothered me for many reasons. I thought about his daughter, and his family. It was just gut wrenching to me. It made me think of my dad. He passed in 2001, and the anniversary of his death was approaching. We buried my dad on Valentine’s day, and every year since then my hatred of the month of February grew; except this year. I can’t explain that. I somehow knew on New Year’s Eve that this year would be different.
My only comfort is that I know where my dad is. He’s just one more angel on my team. What I found most upsetting was that Bob Levinson’s daughter doesn’t know. Her words haunted me and that bothered me too. That man in the orange jumpsuit was one of our own. He was retired F.B.I. He was one of us, and he was just gone. There were no answers, but I had questions. There were several things that I noticed immediately in that article. I tried to flip between my MS Office App and the article but due to spotty cell coverage, I took out my handy notebook and favorite pen and wrote notes instead. There were numerous things that nagged at me, and just seemed “off”. There were arrows that pointed to various key words that I had scribbled in the margins. I have a great love for the double underline when it comes to a key theme. I was lost in thought, and immediately pictured my great Aunt Anne, in that smoke filled apartment in Rosslyn.
The spelling of my middle name was in honor of her. She worked for the F.B.I. too. I used to sit in her apartment in Rosslyn and listen to her tell my great-grandmother about her day. I always paid attention to adult conversations but for some reason Anne fascinated me the most. She used phrases like “mission specific”, and “we got the information from Intel”. For the longest time, I thought that “Intel” was a magical entity that spit out answers like a fairy godmother or a crystal ball. My great aunts and uncles were extremely amused that I used to ask Anne to ask Intel for specific presents on my Christmas list. I just figured that Intel, Santa, the Easter bunny, and the tooth-fairy all knew each other. I’d ask her questions about subjects, and more often than not she would say “I can’t answer that, it’s classified”. That always frustrated me.
Once during an exceptionally exciting conversation, Anne’s voice suddenly dropped. I had been found out. I had bumped into a table and knocked something over. The adults came around the corner and found me in my “hiding spot”, next to a pile of wet coats. My covert op was blown by a rather large umbrella with a carved wooden handle in the shape of a horse with a flowing mane. I’m pretty sure that is why to this day I rarely carry one in the rain. I instantly hated that umbrella!
I was immediately scooped up and told to go play. I ran back to Anne and said “but what happened?” I had to know. I had to know! She just simply said “that’s classified”. I folded my arms, forced myself to the floor and screamed as loudly as I could, “ I HATE CLASSIFIED”! Classified to me was some mean bully that had the last word, and I despised it. It stood in the way of my question of “why”?
That article brought up that memory of my Aunt, that apartment, that kitchen, and the smell of wet coats. Bob’s daughter pled for justice, for answers, and for peace and it seemed no one was willing to give that to her. It made me that much more interested in finding the truth, as one human being to another, one daughter to another. Someone had to help. Too many important issues are lost to apathy, and being the stubborn gal that I am, I wasn’t willing to give in. It wasn’t going to happen, not on my watch, and thus my journey of “What About Bob?” began.