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National Security Cover Ups?

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Strictly from my perspective as a former military top secret security officer, had I written Public Editor Arthur S. Brisbane's column in The New York Times about the newspaper's stories on the so called leaks of secret governmental data, I would have changed the headline from "What If The Secrets Stayed Secret?" to "What In these 'Secrets' Are Actually Secret?"

I have read a lot of the Times ' and other newspapers' reports about WikiLeaks' massive leaks of so called classified data. It looks to me like quite a lot of that information doesn't deserve the high classifications of Top Secret and Secret, or maybe not even Confidential or For Official Use Only.

In fact, some of the scandalous data in WikiLeaks about high-ranking leaders worldwide looks like it was classified Top Secret or Secret to protect them from serious personal embarrassment. How would it be that a public official can make a profoundly stupid or embarrassing statement about another official or country and then cover it up by having his or her government classify it as secret? And, even more serious -- could a leading public official make a mistaken and embarrassing decision, like why his country went to war, and then classify his or her own rationale as Top Secret? That conduct to me would be worse than sanctionable, and possibly legally actionable.

I spent a couple of years total in South Korea and Washington, D.C. as a U.S. Army intelligence investigator. A significant part of our official responsibility was to inspect scores of Army units' classified files. We checked to see not only if they were properly protected from leaks, but to determine if the data inside was properly classified. Was the data really Top Secret, Secret, Confidential? Improper releases of such classified data could result in various degrees of danger to the national security. But our inspections frequently found data that did not deserve to be classified at all. I remember even finding an old news clip that had been classified.

Mo Rocca on CBS Sunday Morning weeks ago had the emphasis hitting the spot. "The disclosures read less like an issue of Foreign Affairs and more like a copy of Us Weekly." In other words, a lot of WikiLeaks information was either scandalous or embarrassing for U.S. and foreign officials. It was more like information a reader might find in a news scandal tabloid like The National Enquirer . And, "What's more interesting and worrisome is the real impact of these leader's foibles and flaws."

Here's but one of Mr. Rocca's humorous examples: (Italian Prime Minister Silvio) "Berlusconi's bromance with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is a problem, not because of that "blow-out party at Putin's dacha." It's charges he profited from Russian-Italian energy deals that could cost Berlusconi his job."

But even more questionable, as reported in The Times , was it really proper and truly diplomatic for U.S. State Department officials to send out cables calling for its diplomats overseas to look for personal data on foreign officials, such as "office and organizational titles; names, position titles and other information on business cards; numbers of telephones, cellphones, pagers and faxes, as well as internet and intranet 'handles,' internet e-mail addresses, website identification-URLs; credit card account numbers; frequent-flier account numbers; work schedules, and other relevant biographical information." Isn't that work supposed to stay with intelligence agencies like the CIA so our diplomats don't potentially lose credibility with their counterparts? Can you imagine being a diplomat and discovering your counterpart is collecting personal information about you behind your back?

If Mr. Rocca and I are correct, then many of these U.S. and foreign officials wanting WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, criminally prosecuted should look first at themselves and the information and discover if it truly should have been classified. If not, then a probe of official cover-ups and misuse of classified information would be more appropriate. But where are the U.S. Congressmen calling for the U.S. General Accountability Office to actually find out which of these thousands of documents actually deserve to be classified?

Not long ago, The Times published a story December 11 written by Sam Roberts and headlined: "Declassified Papers Show U.S. Recruited Nazis." In that story, the public discovers for the first time almost seven decades later that the United States helped Nazi perpetrators escape from any kind of punishment. I quote the story:
"Tracking and punishing war criminals were not high among the Army's priorities in late 1946," the report says. Instead, it concludes that the Army's Counterintelligence Corps spied on suspect groups ranging from German Communists to politically active Jewish refugees in camps for displaced people and also "went to some lengths to protect certain persons from justice.

Among them was Rudolf Mildner, who was 'responsible for the execution of hundreds, if not thousands, of suspected Polish resisters' and as a German police commander was in Denmark when Hitler ordered the country's 8,000 Jews deported to Auschwitz.

Mr. Mildner escaped from an internment camp in 1946, and the report raises questions about whether American intelligence agents' 'lenient treatment of Mildner contributed in some way to his ability to escape' and even suggests that he may have remained in American custody helping identify Communists and other subversives before settling in Argentina in 1949."

This was not the sole example of U.S. officials protecting Nazi perpetrators in the story. So I ask: Why should such government officials be allowed to cover up individual Nazi atrocities for almost seven decades? HELLO!

 

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Thomas D. Williams, a freelance writer, worked at The Hartford Courant for almost 40 years before retiring in November 2005 to become an investigative freelancer on Internet news sites. He has written a unique nature book, The Spirits of Birds, (more...)
 

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Lack of official supervision and inspection of U.S... by Dennie Williams on Wednesday, Dec 22, 2010 at 3:56:51 PM
Write your Congressman in 500 or less words, aaaaa... by William Chappell on Saturday, Dec 25, 2010 at 9:55:06 PM