Monday, August 21, 2006

gratuitous secrecy

In the latest episode of "The De Facto Bush White House Arrogates More Power to Itself," the Bushies have decided not to declassify information about the number of nuclear missiles in the US arsenal. Not CURRENT numbers, but information from as far back as the 1960s. Information that used to be declassified, and was actually given to the Soviets.

I can't figure out why Federal bureaucracies are re-classifying this data, after releasing it years ago on multiple occasions. Somehow, I doubt that knowing the US had 200 B-52 bombers in the late 1960s (one piece of info recently reclassified) would help Al Qaeda or Iraqi insurgents (note -- they aren't the same thing) or China or ANYBODY but military historians.

This regime's penchant for secrecy is well known. One of the most egregious examples was their refusal to release the names of the energy companies who met with Dick Cheney in 2001 and wrote the administration's energy policy. There are plenty of other examples. Remember, early in the first term, the Bushies even extended the time that presidential records would be protected to prevent things being revealed from Papa Bush's presidency, and Clinton's.

It's funny, when civil-liberties-minded people raise concerns about the government snooping at our library records or listening to our phone calls or reading our email, one counter-response is "if you don't have anything to reveal, you don't need to worry about this." So I will ask the same implied question to the Bush Administration: What are you worried about?

The late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1999 published an excellent short book on "Secrecy", where he discussed the growing tendency of the US government to classify more and more information, and the corrosive effects of excessive levels of secrecy on democracies. It's a bad habit to get into.