“You need to get home, he doesn’t have much time left.”
My mom called me at work to tell me that my dad Jim, who you met in “One honest accountant,” was slipping away. Seven months prior in November 2020, he had been stricken by a rare form of esophageal cancer. One sunny afternoon in Florida he was golfing, the next morning he was partially paralyzed; the secondary autoimmune effect of his undiagnosed cancer that would rapidly take his life from him.
I arrived at the hospital late in the evening after having driven cross-country the entire day. By the time I got to his room, he was lying there near-comatose. The nurses told me he was able to hear me, but probably would not be able to react. It was June 16th, 2021, ten days after I had sent an email to 170 members of the DAS querying them for witness statements for the eventual Congressional report. But at that time, the report was absolutely not a foregone conclusion – I was very much at a crossroads and unsure if I had the gas in the tank to press on. Jim and I were never very close. We rarely had deep meaningful conversations, if ever, but that night I wheeled a chair next to his bed and told him about everything going on in my life. I was very much at one of the lowest points in my life, perhaps the lowest, and I needed some guidance. I held his hand and asked him if I should launch the report, knowing the toll it would likely take on me as well as the low likelihood of success. He gently squeezed a few of his fingers. That was all I needed. He died eight hours later. It was the most intense and meaningful conversation we had ever had, and although he didn’t say a word, he provided me the clarity I so desperately needed in that hour.
I submitted the Congressional report “Toxicity in the Defense Attaché Service (DAS) and the Resultant Threat to National Security” on July 9th and never looked back. The subsequent eight months did take a toll, and I will likely never be allowed back in the DIA HQ building (a little dry intel humor there), but the price to eradicate the toxic cancer in DIA was worth it five times over. What started off in December 2019 as a draft IG complaint over an issue that should have been easily rectified had rapidly expanded, exposing the widespread moral corruption of the nation’s military intelligence nexus. And that crusade, I am convinced, served to represent the countless nameless victims within DIA and elsewhere, served to deter future would-be abusive perpetrators, and served our nation. On one hand, I am proud of what I and my Foundation have accomplished this past year. On the other hand, I am ashamed and embarrassed, because I should have never had to do what I did. We live in the greatest country in the world; we are better than this. I served nearly fifteen years abroad while in the military, never fathoming that I would return to my country and see the kind of decayed and degraded moral state that afflicts the “crown jewel” of the United States’ military intelligence headquarters. But I did witness it, and was victimized by it; as were likely hundreds before me. This is why the end of this story is just as much a defeat as it is a victory.
I filed the last report to Congress on the DAS affair on March 22, 2022. That was the last work of my own volition I will do on that case. The powers that be have well beyond a preponderance of the evidence with which to intervene. Whether they choose to do so, and do so adequately, is out of my hands. I have done what I can. I have carried out my duty as a commissioned officer in the United States military. I have zero doubt in my mind it was right and just and necessary. I leave the last chapter to our nation’s lawmakers, to our military leadership, and to fate.
Despite the trials of the past year, I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have met (and spoken on behalf of) so many incredible and dedicated professionals. Your simple words of encouragement consistently fueled my fire. They kept me motivated, engaged, and driven. Without your support, I would have bowed out ten times over.
I closed several letters and emails over the past year with the latin phrase vincit omnia veritas: truth conquers all. I found that phrase to be so fitting, especially since we confronted an organization that so readily and frequently perverted the truth (incredibly ironic coming from DIA, the organization tasked with providing our nation’s decision-makers with the most unadulterated facts possible, no?). So, rather than close with the above-mentioned phrase, allow me to conclude with another; one which I have drawn inspiration from over this past year: “I am proud of you.” This sentiment has two very important meanings to me. First, it is a message to all those who joined me in speaking out: I am proud of you. You, at great risk and with no acknowledgment or gratitude from anyone, did the right thing. That speaks volumes about you and your character. And secondly, and most dear to me, it moved me to my core when you would conversely reciprocate with: “Ryan, I am proud of you.” These five words meant more to me than you’ll likely ever know; those close to me know the deep-rooted reasons why. Suffice it to say, hearing this simple yet incredibly powerful sentiment made it all worth it – thank you.