As the national-international controversies over leaks of so called classified information have deepened and intensified in the past several years, it seems the government's most significant reasons for investigating leak sources and the press reporting upon them are unspoken.
If any CIA, Department of Defense, FBI data needs to be classified top secret, secret, confidential, or for official use only, the rationale for classifying it in the first place needs to be air tight. That means any revelation of that particular security data to the outside world could actually harm the government's on-going foreign or domestic operations.
Yet when these leak controversies, like the one concerning the Justice Department's extensive search of the Associated Press' telephone records emerge, it seems there is little open discussion of why the so called classified information was actually classifed in the first place.
I quote The New York Times: "The Associated Press was informed of the action this month, without being given a reason for the intrusion. But the timing, and the targets, suggested that the move was related to a government investigation into A.P. coverage a year ago about the Central Intelligence Agency's disruption of a Yemen-based terrorist plot to bomb an airliner."
There is no Justice Department allegation surfaced here that the AP actually interfered with that actual CIA "disruption of a Yemen-based terrorist plot to bomb an airliner." Why not? The bomb plot is, according to the report, long over with. The Justice Department needs to show actual damages here. Did any Associated Press reporters actually interfere with or prematurely expose CIA activities in dealing with the terrorist bomb plot? Did AP activities create information to assist the terrorists? No answers!
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Here is an example of a truly valid government security concern. Federal agencies are coordinating an effort to build a new space spy satellite. As the effort progresses, a contractor, assigned to build it, takes the classified satellite plan home, and soon sells it to an agent of a foreign country: an obvious violation, right?
However, there are perhaps millions of security complaints annually that are not even close to as obvious a violation as this one, and indeed may be bogus or insignificant. As well, because there are so many complaints, the government cannot afford the resources to properly investigate them all.
That means the valid, accurate and truthful classification of a document for any level of secrecy is crucial. In other words, anyone charged with leaking it actually needs to have released validly classified data.
As a former, U.S. Army Intelligence Officer, working in both South Korea and Washington, D.C., in the 1960s, I was assigned to investigate security violations allegedly committed by foreign agents, army and civilian personnel. I remember clearly reviewing scores of so called classified documents in army units overseas and discovering actual news stories and data already uniformly and openly distributed and wrongfully classified as secret. In Washington, I once investigated a female civilian charged by army authorities with a serious security violation only to discover, after scores of interviews, that she was innocent.
As like my own past experiences, today it seems that some of the so called security violations pursued by federal agencies have been created by improperly classified data. So called secret data released by WikiLeaks to the public and the press raise serious questions about the ways the U.S. Government was mishandling terrorist and other detainees worldwide. They make one wonder if the data was simply classified to cover up government misconduct.
For instance: "Wikileaks exposes US detention methods in "war on terror"
"The so-called "Detainee Policies" deal with Camp Bucca and Abu Ghraib in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and European army prison facilities from 2002 to 2008. They prescribe ways to damage records of torture and make prisoners 'disappear' from central records, leaving them with virtually no paper trail," reports the web site http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/13122
Meanwhile, the Obama administration's overwhelming emphasis is not to investigate its own military and other security failings even as it accuses others of such conduct. The government has diligently pursued Julian Assange, founder of the WikiLeaks Web site, and Army Private First Class Bradley Manning. Assange has spent the past 11 months in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden where he faces sexual assault charges. US authorities are exploring Assange's extradiction to face prosecution for exposing thousands of classified documents. Attorney General Eric Holder said charges may be brought under a World War I-era law, the Espionage Act of 1917.
Manning is being held in Maryland and awaiting trial in June for allegedly aiding the enemy by public release through WikiLeaks of hundreds of thousands of classified government documents.
Again, many of those Wikileaks' documents exposed irregular activities by government agencies. Yet if the Justice Department or other federal agencies are investigating such conduct or over classification of documents, they must be keeping the inquiries secret.
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...