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Friday, April 17, 2009

Transparency Vs. Classified Information

The only thing more absurd and outrageous than the release of classified memos regarding interrogation techniques of Al Qaeda suspects was the reason given, transparency. Here is how it was described.

“He thought very long and hard about it, consulted widely, because there were two principles at stake,” Axelrod said . “One is the sanctity of covert operations and keeping faith with the people who do them, and the impact on national security, on the one hand. And the other was the law and his belief in transparency.”

This is all nonsense. First, there is nothing lawful in willingly declassifying classified information. Classified information is classified for a reason. It is not so much that our own citizens can't or shouldn't see it, but that our enemies can't and shouldn't see it. That's why the Bush administration never declassified these memos.

More than that, transparency was never meant for that which is supposed to be secret. What will he declassify next? Will he declassify certain Navy Seals missions in Pakistan? This isn't about transparency but politics. President Obama has decided to stop using all interrogations besides those in the Army Field Manual. On the other hand, he has decided to keep the terrorist surveillance program, the warrantless wiretapping program. Everyone should notice that he isn't very transparent about that program. He has NOT released secret memos spelling out the details of that program.

Of course, he hasn't. If he did, the program would be worthless. Of course, he's keeping that program. So, transparency is a lot less important when it will affect a current program. Logically though, if transparency is a high priority, isn't it more important in a current program rather than one that is discontinued? The president seems to be awfuly selective with when "transparency" is such an issue.

Of course, this has little to do with transparency and everything to do with politics. Releasing these memos allows for his predecessor to be painted as a mean guy. For the first time, we know all that terrible things that he allowed for the CIA to do to Al Qaeda thugs. Furthermore, it allows the current president to draw a distinction. Maybe he'll get some political hey, but frankly playing politics with national security is dangerous, it isn't very presidential, and it ought to be condemned by all.


Anonymous said...

Of course he could just be doing this to make people think he isn't doing these things himself.

That being said, the idea of classifying information irritates me. I mean obviously you don't want people knowing where your troops and CIA agents are or where and how fast nuclear missile subs are, but too often it seems government officials just plain classify evidence of their lawbreaking.

mike volpe said...

I think that's exactlyy why he did it but he's already said that interrogations will only be from the Army Field manual.

That said, that's what Congressional oversight is for. There are plenty of Congressional committees with security clearance to allow viewing of classified information. You don't need to declassify something to make sure there is oversight.

Anonymous said...

Shows what a terrible person Bush was though doesnt it.

By torturing, the U.S lowered its own standards. [i see no mention of that in your artile]

Of course Obama released it to show he was different in this issue. He IS different on this issue.

mike volpe said...

Only if you are an ideologue that only reads the New York Times, do you think that Bush was a terrible torturer based on what was released.

Anonymous said...

He authorized it.

Its the shame of the United States.

Only an ideologue would defend this practice and instead focus on the pedantic point of why the information was actually released in the first place.

mike volpe said...

Using my own words is the sincerest form of flattery.

Look, you are someone that thinks anything besides asking nicely whether someone knows anything about anymore terrorism is torture.

We are in a war. I am not terrobly concerned with the purported civil rights of terrorists. These folks commit acts of war and they are illegal acts of war. They have no rights. In my opinion they didn't go far enough. Frankly, this is the wrong piece to argue this. Go here and make your opinion known...