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ICYMI: Watchdog Writes to Defense Department for Information on Zinke’s National Security Role

Source: Western Values Project

Letter to Defense Secretary and Navy Secretary Seek Clarification on U.S. Policy; Interior Secretary’s Role After Comments on Russia

Western Values Project sent a letter to the Secretary of Defense and Navy Secretary after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke floated the idea that the U.S. Navy could impose a blockade on Russia, if necessary, to prevent their energy from reaching markets.

Zinke’s comments were first reported by the Washington Examiner after he made the remarks at the Consumer Energy Alliance industry event in Pittsburgh. Zinke said in part that, “the United States has that ability, with our Navy, to make sure the sea lanes are open, and, if necessary, to blockade … to make sure that their energy does not go to market.”

The letter seeks clarification about whether Zinke’s comments reflect U.S. policy and whether the secretary, who leads an agency with no apparent major national security mandate, has input over the military’s ongoing public and covert operations regarding Russia’s 23,000 miles of coastline.

“If Secretary Zinke is advising the Defense Department or Navy on strategy, the Department should inform the public of Zinke’s role and responsibility,” said Western Values Project Executive Director Chris Saeger. “If Zinke is publicly sharing uninformed opinions on national security issues, he should be held accountable. To be clear, Zinke has created countless crises on issues Interior is actually responsible for. We ask that he focus on getting his own house in order before interfering further in geo-political disputes.”

The Department of the Interior is the nation’s largest land management agency, overseeing management and conservation of federal public lands, natural resources, and national parks, and the administration of programs related to Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and insular areas.

Zinke’s comments were picked up by Russian state media, rebuked by the controversial Chechen leader and would potentially be considered an act of war under international law. Politico’s Morning Defense reported on the letter but had not received clarification from U.S. officials before publication. Zinke is scheduled to attend an event in Boston on Friday with Navy Secretary Richard Spencer.

6 replies »

  1. Our American citizens should be very frightened to have this and some of the other persons speaking for us when “Zinke’s comments were picked up by Russian state media, rebuked by the controversial Chechen leader and would potentially be considered AN ACT OF WAR UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW.”


  2. The question which keeps on being raised is: How is this person still a member of the cabinet – after all the crises (as it said above) he has CAUSED!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t think Zinke came up with this on his own, some other dangerous dummy fed him this information because they knew he would talk about it, and he doesn’t have the sense to think before he acts which makes him a dangerous conduit of bad players that thrive on war so they can line their bulging pockets even more.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. How are comments an “act of war?” No fan of Zinke here but he was a career Navy man, which means he probably spoke the truth here. Congress alone can declare war and he is not a member of Congress, nor is his DOI role a military one. It does seem to be a foolish threat but he was speaking to a receptive crowd. It reads like “bar talk” to me. Not appropriate but not unexpected either.

    Liked by 1 person


    Dear Friend,

    When Elizabeth Jensen, National Public Radio’s public editor, dropped by HCN’s hometown of Paonia, Colorado, last month, she said NPR has struggled with how to call out misinformation in a way that doesn’t immediately alienate large parts of the citizenry. Rather than using the word “lies” when they encounter false statements, for example, NPR reporters try to explain why experts think statements are untrue.
    I thought of this when I read that Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke, who’s responsible for the management of a half-billion acres of public lands, recently told Breitbart News that “environmental terrorist groups” are responsible for the wildfires in the West this summer.

    “We have been held hostage by these environmental terrorist groups that have not allowed public access — that have refused to allow (the) harvest of timber,” Zinke said, claiming that “radical environmentalists … close off roads, refuse to have firebreaks, refuse to have any timber harvested, no grazing, and the result is these catastrophic fires.”

    I’d be lying myself if I didn’t tell you that Zinke’s comments are not only wrong but destructive. Forest ecologists inside Zinke’s own agency know that a warming climate and a century of active fire suppression and livestock grazing have created the conditions for today’s massive wildfires; even large-scale logging won’t change this. As for denouncing citizen organizations that work within the political system to ensure wise management of public resources as “environmental terrorists,” Zinke is simply trying to incite fear and hate, rather than solve a complex problem. His divide-and-conquer strategy was on display at a recent stop in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, as Editorial Fellow Carl Segerstrom reports here. It was heartening to see citizens exercising their constitutional right to disagree.

    Because so much news these days comes in the form of misinformation and shouting matches between the parties, Jensen said that she is pushing NPR to go back to the kind of deeply reported stories from the field that provide both context and room for many voices. That’s exactly what HCN’s editors and writers strive to do every day.

    But countering misinformation with real journalism takes time and money. Your financial contribution, beyond your subscription, allows our team to unravel the complexities of managing our public lands and the many other issues confronting the West, from a changing climate to communities struggling to balance economic growth with social justice.

    I hope you’ll follow our reporting, send us your story tips, and support the work with a donation today. We couldn’t do this without you.

    Paul Larmer


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