Friday, December 22, 2006

Deep Insecurity

I had hoped that the election results from November would give the current administration pause when it came to its more egregious and arrogant behavior with respect to basic constitutional guarantees. Silly me! If anything, the public rebuke has done nothing more than stiffen the resolve of the Bush White House to flout those guarantees even more openly.

In the past week I posted on the attempt of the federal prosecutors to subvert the Grand Jury process to hide an embarrassing document (see Chillin' and The Good Guys). This week, the government took it upon itself to censor an op-ed piece written by two former government officials: Flynt Leverett, a former senior director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council; and Hillary Mann, a former Foreign Service officer who participated in the United States discussions with Iran from 2001 to 2003. What their article looked like after the redaction by the government is located here.

Their response to this violation of the First Amendment is in today's NY Times.

HERE is the redacted version of a draft Op-Ed article we wrote for The Times, as blacked out by the Central Intelligence Agency’s Publication Review Board after the White House intervened in the normal prepublication review process and demanded substantial deletions. Agency officials told us that they had concluded on their own that the original draft included no classified material, but that they had to bow to the White House.

Indeed, the deleted portions of the original draft reveal no classified material. These passages go into aspects of American-Iranian relations during the Bush administration’s first term that have been publicly discussed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; former Secretary of State Colin Powell; former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage; a former State Department policy planning director, Richard Haass; and a former special envoy to Afghanistan, James Dobbins.

These aspects have been extensively reported in the news media, and one of us, Mr. Leverett, has written about them in The Times and other publications with the explicit permission of the review board.
[Emphasis added]

To prove that the materials to be discussed in their op-ed piece were in fact non-classified, the writers included a side bar to today's article which has an extensive list (with links) of articles published with the same material that was blacked out by the government censors in their article. Why is that material now suddenly too sensitive to be published now?

The answer to that question has several parts. First, the material had to do with Iran and the very quiet US discussions with that country in the past several years. Iran, part of the "Axis of Evil," appears to be next on the White House hit list. The government has just announced the deployment of several ships to the region as a means of showing Iran just how powerful we are. "Don't mess with us," is the clear message behind that not so subtle threat.

And that leads to the second part. The White House has made it clear that it has absolutely no intention of talking to Iran about their nuclear intentions and their growing influence over certain elements of the Shi'ite majority in Iraq. The recently released Iraq Study Group report, however, has recommended just that, and in the past week several members of Congress have actually gone to Damascus to speak with the Syrian President about Iraq and the Middle East. The White House wants none of that, so much so that it feels compelled to hide the evidence that it was at least considering such discussions in the past, evidence that has been openly discussed by such members of the administration as the current Secretary of State.

Fortunately for us, Leverett and Mann are not taking this lying down. Their response is both admirable and necessary, and the conclusion to the article sets out clearly what is at stake:

National security must be above politics. In a democracy, transparency in government has to be honored and protected. To classify information for reasons other than the safety and security of the United States and its interests is a violation of these principles.


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Blogger Woody Guthrie's Guitar (aka Konopelli) said...

yesterday on amy, there was a very disturbing colloquy between sy hersch and scott ritter...

you'll want to check it out

1:46 PM  
Blogger cabearie said...

Thanks, WWG, I will do just that.

2:13 PM  

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