Sunday, June 10, 2007


How much can be classified as top secret before - the words loose all meaning, or before most information is classified, or before so much is classified that there aren't enough techs to process it and guard it. When does this administration stop automatically classifying anything it can get its hands on instead of stopping to pick and choose (a process that requires analysis and judgment - two qualities in short supply in Bush-world).

Professor Ted Gup of Case Western Reserve, author of "Nation of Secrets: The Threat to Democracy and the American Way of Life," talks about the administration's knee jerk reaction to secret keeping in today's WaPo Outlook section. He notes that while we claim to live in an "Information Age," we do, in fact, life in an age of secrets. Where information sharing is taboo across businesses and government agencies.

How many secrets? According to Gup: "In 1995, according to the Information Security Oversight Office, the stamp of classification -- 'confidential,' 'secret,' 'top secret,' etc. -- was wielded about 3.6 million times, mostly to veil existing secrets in new documents. Ten years later, it was used a staggering 14.2 million times (though some of the bump-up was the result of increased use of the Internet for government communications). That works out to 1,600 classification decisions every hour, night and day, all year long. (And not one of those secrets is believed to reveal where Osama bin Laden is.)"

And it's not just current secrets - people are actually going back into open documents and reclassifying them as secret. Because . . . ? And that's the fun. The explosion in classification is not just about keeping nuclear launch codes away from the bad guys. It's also about cleaning up afterwards - cleansing history while culprits still can - hiding the evidence before it exposes unethical, illegal or just unsavory activities.

Six years later, we are still shaking out the post 9/11 lessons on democracy in this new age. The push and pull between honest security safeguards and maintaining our democratic, open society is difficult enough on its own. But added to the mix have been the vague threats and fear mongering of this administration and its neo-con cheer leaders. If we don't go far enough - it is the end of this country, they tell us time and time again. Not once have any of them stopped to look in the mirror and ask themselves - what do they think they will have saved by abandoning so much of what has made this country great to begin with.


Blogger Carol Gee said...

I watched author Gup on C-SPAN yesterday from the Chicago book fair, and so enjoyed his presentation. You've done well in presenting his themes, which are very sobering. I plan to get the book. I enjoyed your post.

10:00 PM  
Blogger TomCat said...

Great post, LP. Perhaps the Bush Reich is the most secretive in US history, because the Fuehrer is the worst pResident in US history... and the guiltiest of high crimes and misdemeanors.

3:33 PM  

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