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The Sam Adams Associates Corner-Brightener Candlestick Awarded to Sam Provance
Know all ye by these presents that SAM PROVANCE is hereby awarded The Corner-Brightener Candlestick, presented by Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence.
Sam joined the Army in 1998 and became an intelligence analyst. Assigned to Abu Ghraib in September 2003, he quickly learned of the systematic torture there, and was haunted by the words of a Holocaust survivor: “Thou shalt not be a victim; thou shat not be a perpetrator; above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.”
Sam felt a duty to those suffering abuse and also to his fellow soldiers, trapped and degraded into implementing illegal policies on torture ordered by superior officers. When he went through Army channels to object, he was reduced in rank and branded a “traitor.”
Sam Provance stood firm, and tall...and alone, since the Army had successfully intimidated his fellow soldiers into obedient silence. He would not be a bystander—gag order or not.
What Sam did not know at the time is that torture had been approved by the president by memorandum of February 7, 2002, and that then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had ordered specific forms of torture, without demurral from the most senior military officers. Colin Powell, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, warned that excluding prisoners from Geneva protections “could undermine U.S. military culture which emphasizes maintaining the highest standards of conduct,” but there is no evidence he summoned the courage to make his case directly to the president.
It was an unprecedented failure of a senior military leadership ready to degrade U.S. Army intelligence into becoming, in effect, a Gestapo, adopting the very interrogation methods it used before and during WWII.
Writing about his experiences in the thirties in Germany, Sebastian Haffner observed: “What was completely absent was any act of courage or spirit by any of the participants.” Thanks to Sam Provance, this country has at least one example of courage—an Army Sergeant who did his best to prevent the intelligence branch of the U.S. Army from becoming a Gestapo. Thus, the annual award for Integrity in Intelligence is:
Presented to Sam Provance this 20th day of September 2007, at American University, Washington, D.C. by admirers of the Sam Adams tradition.
Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence
Co-sponsor of this event, Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence is a movement of former CIA colleagues and other associates of Sam who hold up his example as a model for those in intelligence who would aspire to the courage to speak truth to power. Sam did precisely that, and in honoring his memory, SAAII confers an award each year to a member of the intelligence profession exemplifying during the previous year Sam Adam’s courage, persistence, and devotion to the truth—no matter the consequences.
It was Sam Adams who discovered in 1967 that there were 500,000 Vietnamese Communists under arms—more than twice the number that our military in Saigon would admit to. Gen. William Westmoreland had put an artificial limit on the number that Army intelligence was allowed to carry on its books. A cable from Gen. Creighton Abrams in Saigon specifically warned Washington that the press would have a field day if Adam’s numbers—however correct—were released, and that this would weaken the war effort.
The bogus figures were given the lie in January/February 1968, when the Communists mounted a countrywide offensive at Tet. The attacks were a surprise to official Washington, and Saigon, turning Walter Cronkite and many others against the war.
Dan Ellsberg gave the information about Sam Adams’ figures to the New York Times on March 19, 1968, when it appeared that President Lyndon Johnson would bow to Pentagon pressure to widen the war into Cambodia, Laos, North Vietnam, right up to the Chinese border—perhaps even beyond. Dan’s timely patriotic truth telling, and that of others, worked. On March 25, President Johnson complained to a small gathering, “The leaks to the New York Times hurt us...We have no support for the war.” Six days later, Johnson introduced a bombing pause, opted for negotiations, and announced that he would not be running for another term in November 1968.
As for Sam Adams, like most prophets who will not relent, he was ostracized. Although he went to the Inspectors General of the CIA and the Pentagon, he got nowhere. Sam went to a premature death in 1988 at age 55, with nagging remorse that he had not done enough. He reasoned that, had he not let himself be diddled by the system, the entire left wall of the Vietnam memorial would not be there. There would have been no new names to chisel into such a wall.
The Sam Adams Award was given to truth tellers Coleen Rowley of the FBI for 2002; Katharine Gun of GSHQ (the UK’s NSA) for 2003; Sibel Edmonds of the FBI for 2004; and Craig Murray, former ambassador to Uzbekistan for 2005.
Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence is pleased to give the award for 2006 to Sam Provance for his determination to act in the best tradition of U.S. Army intelligence by speaking truth to power—no matter what the consequences.