Friday, February 24, 2006

Whose Government?

"...and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
-- Abraham Lincoln

"The more people learn about the transaction that has been scrutinized and approved by my government, the more they'll be comforted..."
-- George W. Bush

"Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."
-- George Orwell

Fred Kaplan in Slate yesterday:

The latest skirmish started last December, when an independent scholar named Matthew Aid went to the National Archives to re-examine some declassified documents that he'd copied several months earlier and learned that they'd been removed from the public shelves and reclassified.

Looking into the matter further, he discovered that, over the last five years, in a program that itself has been a secret, U.S. military and intelligence agencies have reclassified 9,500 documents, constituting more than 55,000 pages, some of them dating back to World War II. And that's just so far. The program under which they've been doing this—which has never been authorized or funded by Congress—is scheduled to continue until at least March 2007.

Quite a few of the papers seem to have been reclassified only because they're embarrassing. For instance, one document reveals that, in the fall of 1950, the CIA predicted the Chinese would not intervene in the Korean War; 12 days later, they did. (Classifying, much less reclassifying documents for this purpose, if that was in fact the reason, is not just stupid but illegal. Federal law states: "No information … shall be classified in order to … prevent embarrassment of a person, organization, or agency.")
"Ignorance is strength."
-- George Orwell again.

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