Obama intelligence official shortchanged grad student in 2015 book

Gregory Treverton

A top intelligence official in the Obama administration failed to adequately credit a research assistant for a 2015 book but eventually relented after the grad student refused to back down about the slight, Retraction Watch has learned. 

Gregory Treverton, who served as chairman of President Obama’s National Intelligence Council, wrote “National Intelligence and Science: Beyond the Great Divide in Analysis and Policy” with Wilhelm Agrell, a Swedish political scientist. At the time, Treverton was at the RAND Corporation, and he enlisted the help of Tyler Lippert, then a student at the Pardee RAND Graduate School and a RAND analyst. 

According to Lippert, Treverton used extensive passages of text that Lippert provided to him with no acknowledgment that Lippert had done the work. Emails between Lippert and Treverton obtained by Retraction Watch show an increasingly acrimonious exchange between the two scholars. 

Lippert contacted Treverton in early January 2017 to congratulate him on the book and to express his displeasure that “there is no attribution or acknowledgment” of his efforts toward its completion. Lippert admits that he didn’t address the issue prior to publication but added that he believed RAND’s policy was clear: He deserved formal credit. 

Treverton responded the following day saying that although he “always thought you overstated your overall contribution to the book,” he would “do whatever would make you feel you get the credit you deserve.” 

Lippert’s next message brought some facts: According to the researcher, of the 10,000 or so words in the chapter he helped write, 3,800 were “taken directly, or near directly from the papers that I wrote for you while I was at RAND.” Lippert included a marked-up PDF of the passages which he claimed were his own and added that he was “surprised … to see how extensive my work appeared in the final product; I had not anticipated it.”

A clearly peeved Treverton responded by saying that he would address the matter but that he was too busy at the moment to do so, what with the impending inauguration of a new president and other pressing issues. But, he added, he was “somewhat surprised” that Lippert had “decided to burn all bridges to me over what seems, to me at least, a pretty trivial matter.” 

A “deeply troubled” Lippert fired back, rejecting the notion that the issue was trivial and questioning why Treverton appeared to lack “contrition” and a sense of “professional responsibilities.” 

Which in turn prompted Treverton to declare that he did not care “for the tone” of Lippert’s email and that “[F]rom my perspective, I don’t owe anyone any contrition.” (So there!)

However, he said, he would consult with his co-author: “I thought you were doing research assistance, not “papers.” But if I’m wrong, I’ll ask the publisher to do what you desire.”

In the event, Treverton was wrong. Lippert eventually prevailed on Oxford University Press, which published the book, to list him as a co-author of the relevant chapter. 

Treverton, who is now with the Center for Strategic & International Studies, declined to comment. Lippert did not respond to a request for comment.

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6 thoughts on “Obama intelligence official shortchanged grad student in 2015 book”

  1. Your summary mischaracterizes Treveton’s emails. Seems to me like he was ready to acknowledge his RA from the beginning, but the RA wanted to have his name on the cover of the book as a co author.

    1. How could Matilda Muravyova’s comment be taken seriously? Just look at Tyler Lippert’s January 8, 2017, email to Greg Treverton. All he asked for was to be appropriately credited as co-author of the particular chapter. He did not request that his name be on the cover of the book. And he explicitly stated that he was not seeking a reprinting or a recall of all the books already sold or printed.

      Two days before that, in his January 6 email to Greg Treverton, all that Tyler Lippert requested was attribution or acknowledgement of his contribution to the book. It was a polite and professional email, and he generously gave Treverton the opportunity to take the reins on remedying the problem.

    2. If you do a google search, you will see that there are no hits for the name “Matilda Muravyova”. This person probably does not exist; just a troll trying to shift blame away from Treverton, who is clearly and dramatically in the wrong.
      It is perfectly clear that Treverton was unwilling to acknowledge the work; moreover, at no point did Treverton take responsibility for his actions, or admit to any fault. The only reason this was addressed is because Treverton was forced. He only changed his tune when he realized that he had no other choice.

  2. You should consider redacting email addresses (or any other contact information) from those email .pdfs.

    You’re just opening up all parties to needless harassment.

  3. Another powerful, old, white man, who thinks he can use his influence to hurt people, and then gets mad when it backfires. This kind of stuff happens all the time, but people are getting away with it less (thanks to transparency advocates like Retraction Watch)!

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