Monday, August 28, 2006

The Importance of Being Secret

Yesterday, I posted parts of an op-ed piece by Leonard Pitts, Jr. on the current regime's reliance on classifying information to control the citizenry of this country (posted here). Today, I found an editorial on the same subject in the NY Times.

In 1971, Defense Secretary Melvin Laird punctuated his plea to Congress for more cold war appropriations with a graphic display of information that revealed the nation on guard with 54 Titan and 1,000 Minuteman nuclear missiles, plus 30 strategic bomber squadrons. In making his case, Mr. Laird exemplified the idea that a little transparency is no drawback in a democracy.

Thirty-five years later, the Bush administration, which has consistently demonstrated an extraordinary mania for secrecy, is blacking that public information out of history. That’s right: it has reclassified the number of missiles and bombers from the Nixon era as some fresh national security secret, even though historians and officials in the old Soviet Union long have had it available on their research shelves.

...The missile blackout is the latest symptom of a deepening government illness. National security has become the excuse for efforts to crack down on whistle-blowers and journalists dealing in such vital disclosures as the illicit eavesdropping on Americans. Last spring the director of the National Archives objected to a reclassifying initiative undertaken by intelligence officials that caused 55,000 decades-old pages to vanish from the public record. The process itself was labeled an official secret.

While I am tempted to argue that once again the NY Times is a day late and a dollar short, at least the Gray Lady has pointed out the danger inherent in such reclassification. After all, their reporters are among those facing prosecution for writing alerting us to the various governmental programs spying on Americans. And while I much prefer the passionate language of Mr. Pitts' column, I also appreciate this more formal editorial because it appeared in a paper with a much wider readership.

Hopefully the NY Times will translate this editorial into strong support for the journalists on its staff to continue with the investigating and reporting of all such travesties perpetrated by the Emperor and his minions, and will publish those stories on the front page where they belong.


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