The Banality of Alexis Debat
Guest post by Marie
Nailing down who Debat is is a little like trying to nail jell-o to a wall. The facts are limited and most of those beg more questions than they answer. ABC isn't answering questions and several websites have been scrubbed. But let's try to run through what is still collectible.
His undated CV is can be seen HERE and I suggest you leave it open as we work our way through it.
Someone was kind enough to annotate sections of it which we'll return to in a moment. Page one suggests that the CV was prepared in 2002 or early 2003 because includes his position at ABC News that he secured in 2002 and that he had a manuscript that was scheduled for publication in 2003. Yet, when we get to page two and under Professional experience, we see 2001-2004 AXA Financial. What can we conclude from this? First, this wasn't what he presented to ABC News to get his job in 2002.. Second, his CV construction skills suck.
Starting from the top:
1. ABC News – confirmed
2. The National Interest – this is a Nixon Center bi-monthly journal and two articles remain on-line. (Correct name of the journal is “In The National Interest.” However, “editor” is an embellishment.
3. Business for Diplomatic Action – is “a non-profit that enlists the U.S. business community in actions to improve America's standing in the world.” that was launched at the end of 2003. In 2005 they partnered with Clinton Global Initiative on an Arab youth development program. Debat's role is unconfirmed
4. Financial and Risk Analysis – unconfirmed
5. Surprisingly enough, the Amazon address is for a manuscript ascribed to Debat exists. Still unpublished after all these years.
6. Politique Internationale – This is a well respected and credible journal. 'Politique Internationale editor and political scientist Patrick Wajsman founded the magazine nearly 30 years ago. This is a credible and respected journal. He called Debat "a grand liar" and said he had hired a lawyer to pursue "all possible measures" against him. (snip) He noted that Debat worked for the journal for four years, starting after he was already working for ABC and the Nixon Center. "How could we possibly doubt someone who worked for ABC, who worked for the Nixon Center? How could we possibly doubt someone from several thousand kilometers away?" he asked” We can fill in 2003 for the starting date of this engagement. Probably safe to discount the “editor and chief of the Washington bureau.
Page 2 (We are getting somewhere, I think)
1. The annotation clearly refutes Debat's claim that he earned a PhD or even formally worked towards one. We can also dismiss his claim that statement that “his Ph.D had been held up on technicalities and that he had completed all the required work.” LINK If you refer back to his unpublished book (#5 above), it looks as if he planned to use it for his dissertation if he ever got into a doctoral program. Two masters degrees is impressive, but these are unconfirmed.
2. Professional experience – five jobs that would appear to require at least three if not five different skill sets. Of course the first and last ones listed also appeared on page one (sort of gives knew meaning to resume padding). The first one AXA Financial is fishy for two reasons: his boss retired before he started and the description of his position is different from what it was on page one. Jobs one through four are unconfirmed. (Note: AXA is one of the largest insurance companies in the world and Debat could well have worked there. An insurance policy analyst, even a senior, one isn't a glamorous job and AXA probably employs thousands of them.)
1. Visiting Poli-Sci Professor at Middlebury College in VT. Alexis was doing some heavy duty commuting in those years; DC, NYC, VT and Paris. Oh, except he seems not have made it to VT often enough to actually meet the Head of the Poli-Sci Dept. However, Laura Rozen did confirm that “he had been a visiting instructor for a short winter term at Middlebury, so it wasn't a complete fabrication. He must have been there for the one month semester in January 2002 or 2003 (yes, that's real semester at Middlebury) which might explain why the Dept Head missed him.
2. French Ministry of Defense position- not quite at the Ministry and not quite a job and probably in 1999.
3. Ecole de Guerre – giving a two hour conference is like being a Visiting Lecturer: one visit and one lecture.
4. Secretary of Defense – Uhh, no.
5. Jefferson Waterman International – Hurray, it's true. A real PR/lobbying firm representing international clients and has done work for Vietnam Veterans of America for years. The founder Charles Waterman is ex-CIA . Charles Waterman is ex-CIA. This is the one that fits with our Alexis. K Street, a bit shadowy, international and maybe only a small stretch to refer to it as The No Despot Left Behind representative. But it doesn't look as if Debart even got a foot in the door. “Contributed to a research and advocacy projected.” Was this pro bono?
6. A year on loan (from what?) to Jerusalem and Ramallah and another year in a pre-adolescent education program are unconfirmed.
That completes the preliminary review of Debat's CV (and I hope it less painful to read than it was to research and write). As his CV seems to have been a continuing work in progress, Debat had frequently tossed out other summary work in progress resumes. The one I've selected to cover is from his attendance at the University of Pittsburgh's European Union Center of Excellence – European Studies Center. Fall '06 Alexis was listed as one of the Distinguished Visitors and Scholars. This is how he was presented:
Dr. Alexis Debat, senior terrorism consultant for ABC News, contributing editor to Politique Internationale and The National Interest, director of the Scientific Committee for the Institut Montaigne in Paris, and senior fellow at the Homeland Security Institute at the George Washington University.
The first three positions were were previously covered. Institut of Montaigne and Homeland Security Institute are new. I skipped the first one and went directly to the second one because USA Today confirmed that one as well as the fact that Debat's name had been scrubbed from the on-list of senior fellows. It all sounds terribly important and chi-chi. What has actually been done by this Institute seems not to be a lot. They host appearances for people like Chertoff to speak. Issue a few policy type papers. But get this, the Senior Fellows aren't paid which may explain why the institute doesn't do much. This looks as if it might be another one of those perfectly legal ways for people with connections to pad their resumes.
The last item is The Nixon Center. (Did you know of the existence of the Center before Debat entered your consciousness? I didn't.) Is part of the Nixon Library but 3,000 miles away from it and operates independently. People tend to forget how thoroughly Nixon was disgraced. There were still enough wealthy people around who liked him enough to donate plenty of funds to build the Nixon Library, but it was considered a joke. It presented Nixon as he wanted to be remembered and not how he'd operated in the real world. Until this year, it wasn't part of the National Archives Presidential Library System and didn't include 78,000 pages of documents and tapes that were withheld and stored by the Archivist of the United States.
Throughout Nixon's life he craved respect and acclaim and undoubtedly the status of his presidential library was one of the wounds he carried. While he manage to somewhat salvage his reputation in the decades after he left office, he didn't accomplish his goal to become officially recognized as senior statesman welcomed around the world for his diplomatic skills and foreign policy acumen. On this one, the US got it right. Nixon was a nasty and mean spirited man and not half as smart as many today give him credit for. On 1/20/94 (the 25th anniversary of his first inauguration), three months before his death, he announced the creation of the Nixon Center as a non-partisan public policy institution. The leadership roster:
Henry A. Kissinger, Honorary Chairman
Maurice R. Greenberg, Chairman
James Schlesinger, Chairman, Executive Committee
Robert F. Ellsworth, Vice Chairman
George L. Argyros, Founding Chairman
John H. Taylor, Secretary
Dimitri K. Simes, President
The Center has basically lived up to it's non-partisan public policy mission. Joe Trippi and Steve Clemons did short stints there. The Center may be the only thing Nixon ever touched that was non-partisan. However, it doesn't appear that it plays a leading role in DC or public policy circles, and it's doubtful that its stature will grow. Its journal, “In The National Interest,” was founded in 1985 by Irving Kristol and was a seedbed for neo-conservative thought with people like Francis Fukuyama as an early contributor. When the Nixon Center became the publisher is unclear but it was no later than 2001. In 2005 Fukuyama and his neo-con cohorts bolted when the editorial board established new guidelines, presumably consistent with those of the Center. In general the Center and its journal are respectable, moderate and bland.
Until recently Alexis was one of eight contributing editors to The National Interest. When Debat first made headlines early this month, this is how it was reported on 9/2/07
The Sunday Times of London is reporting that the Pentagon has plans for three days of massive air strikes against 1,200 targets in Iran. Last week, Alexis Debat, director of terrorism and national security at the Nixon Center*, told a meeting of The National Interest, a conservative foreign policy journal, that the military did not intend to carry out "pinprick strikes" against Iranian nuclear facilities. He said, "They're about taking out the entire Iranian military. -- *emphasis added
The problem with that report by the Times of London is that it appears that there has never been a director of terrorism and national security at the Nixon Center. Paul Saunders, Executive Director – Nixon Center responded to an inquiry from Laura Rozen with this statement:
First, I should tell you that Alexis Debat is no longer affiliated with The Nixon Center or The National Interest. He resigned yesterday for personal reasons. Also, strictly for clarification, his former role as a contributing editor to the magazine was unpaid and was not a staff position; he was compensated strictly for individual contributions on a case-by-case basis.
That statement is believable for two reasons. First, Debat would not naturally fit in with the stodgy, moderate conservatism of the Center, and therefore, employing Debat would have been odd. Second, this isn't the only unpaid position appearing on one of Debat's resumes. Impressive sounding titles with little substance.
Okay, now what does all this mean? As I began collecting and organizing the information that I used for “Alexis Debat – Lone Wolf” there were so many suggestive and tantalizing threads to pursue that it was difficult to decide which one should come first. My decision to focus on his CV was more about being disciplined and systematic in researching him than expecting any insight from this approach. How wrong I was. Partway through, that year of graduate work in psychological testing, paid off. The shabbiness of the CV, the vague dates of employment, the conflicting dates, the sketchy job descriptions, the embellishment of positions and titles that were confirmed, verification that other jobs were fabricated and the fabrication of a PhD are all consistent with what is commonly referred to as a con-man and clinically labeled as an Antisocial Personality Disorder.
Such people are charming and engaging. On first meeting they seem better than normal because they don't have all those ordinary insecurities and neuroses that most of us carry around with us. They are impressive in their presentation of the self and the accomplishments they take credit for. Not with off-putting arrogance but very much down to earth and almost matter of fact about all they have done in the past. Anti-social personalities are experienced as a welcome breath of fresh air. Over time, little things begin to seem off. They weren't where they said they were. Some things they say stretch credulity. An obvious lie here and there. Unexplained absences. Inconsistent work performance. A sense that there could be a drug and/or alcohol problem. Over time, their purported educational and/or professional expertise claims begin to sound hollow and inconsistent with their work product. It all begins to add up and at some point nothing they say can be taken for the truth or at face value. From angels to devils.
All of us fudge a little bit here and there, tell a small lie now and again, do something we'd rather not others know about, pinch a pen from work, etc. But regular people don't make up prior jobs out of whole cloth, highly embellish prior jobs, fabricate college degrees AND fail to supply reasonably accurate date of employment and names of superiors. Nor do we have several important sounding jobs simultaneously. The resume or CV of highly accomplished people is very different from Debat's. They are specific as to time, place and job description. They don't contain internal contradictions and aren't vague. The anti-social personality operates on the big picture level and doesn't bother much with ordinary details. They want to be somebody but don't or can't take all the steps required to be that somebody. (Most aren't nearly as intelligent as they initially seem to be.) That's often their undoing.
So, what's the story with Debat? A bit of education and a fascination with the CIA was enough for him to be able to talk the lingo of defense issues, foreign policy and secret intelligence operations. He may even have applied for a position in one of the French secret services. Instead of excitement, glamor and intrigue, he ended up working for an insurance company where he would have quickly learned that he wasn't on the fast track to running an operation of any size or with any status. He would likely have been hanging out in bars and restaurants that are frequented by the professional class. At some point would have met someone from a news organization, and as he can talk a good game, would have easily impressed that person with his knowledge of current world events. Either before or shortly after that encounter, 9/11 happens. Now he knows everything there is to know about terrorism and he quickly finds himself talking about Moussoui on French TV. That leads to getting a foot in the door at ABC, possibly only as a one time consultant. But that would have been enough to give him an opportunity to sell his terrorism expertise on a more regular and then permanent basis. Once established, even if only conditionally, at ABC he began building and constructing a resume that would look like what someone with his expertise would have.
ABC News doesn't want to talk about this but with enough pressure they will be forced to disclose how Debat came to work for them. ABC picked him up when they and all news organizations were desperate for people with experience and/or expertise in Muslim terrorism. Bypassing normal and customary hiring practices would have been easy under those circumstances. Perhaps a criminal background check was run, but he passed that. At some point, personnel would caught up with him because they do have to maintain to complete files on employees. My guess is that Debat stalled them with promises to get on it as soon as his workload eased up. When he finally got around to it, he'd already been employed for long enough that checking his resume wouldn't have been a high priority. Plus he would have been frequently updating it with new accomplishments. As we've seen, that job at ABC News was a ticket to Politique Internationale. Those two easily led to everything else that was real even if none of it had much substance and no pay.
That raises the question of how much he earned for all these jobs. It can't have been much from the journals that published what he submitted. Did ABC News pay him a handsome salary? Or did he find other ways to supplement his income. If he faked interviews, how hard would it have been to fake stories from the Mid-East? ABC News might want to take a close look at his expense accounts.
Laura Rozen reported yesterday that Debat now claims that in the spring he started working for Andy Marshall at the Pentagon. And that he received a large wad of cash when he signed on. I find this patently absurd. First, in the spring he was still working for ABC News and submitting articles to two journals. Second he's a foreign national. Third, publishers, not the Pentagon, pay large advances for works in progress and those only to those that can be expected to produce something that sells, Fourth, Debat was not in close enough contact with anyone that could pave the way from him to work for Marshall. The closest he seems to have gotten to anybody connected with the Nixon Center was with John Hulsman. They co-wrote an article entitled In Praise of Warlords that was published in June '06. However, Hulsman like the other couple hundred NI contributors didn't work for the Nixon Center and further wouldn't seem to have any strong personal connections with the Pentagon. In fact he left the Heritage Foundation when he became critical of the Bush Administration. Debat could easily have learned about Marshall and his operation at the Pentagon from any number of people associated with the Nixon Center on those occasions, likely rare, where he met and talked with those people. Or he could have read about him in a book or article. (My guess is that Debat isn't much of a reader.) But it's a giant step from hearing about someone to working for them. By early 2007, Debat could have presented a reasonably legitimate and impressive looking resume, his references, except for the ABC News reporter Brian Ross, nobody else could vouch for him beyond the fact that he'd written a few articles. If he were claiming that he had gotten a gig with The Department of Homeland Security, I would be less likely to dismiss the possibility. Senior Fellow at GWU Homeland Security Institute to DHS is hardly a leap at all. Wonder why he didn't try that out?
It's disappointing to me that in peeling back the layers on Alexis Debat that there isn't anything truly interesting there. In the era of Bush/Cheney where there are so many ways for nefarious characters to get on their payroll, at first glance Debat appeared to be another likely candidate for them. It's easy to become cynical and assume that they would hire anyone willing to do their bidding. Yet, they do have their standards, and Debat never made it into the GOP buddy system. He tried to but probably doesn't know enough about American politics to have seen that ABC News and a think tank like the Nixon Center didn't open doors to interesting, top secret jobs in the federal government. Real jobs require real contacts or real and verifiable resumes and references. He lasted over five years with ABC News before anybody got suspicious enough about him to reopen his personnel file and verify his work and educational background. Maybe poor Alexis didn't understand that in this country, falsifying a job application or resume is grounds for immediate termination.
So once again we're looking at a MSM organization that employed a person that submitted fake stories to a French journal and a heavily falsified resume to ABC News. So far, ABC News is claiming that they didn't air any false stories prepared by Debat. I wouldn't take any bet, even with odds of thousand to one, that ABC News is correct. Brian Ross and any of his colleagues that promoted Debat's work have some 'splainin to do. Then they should get the Dan Rather treatment because nobody proved that he presented a forged document, only that he had failed to verify that it was authentic.