An Informed Public vs Secrecy

There is a common threat amongst journalists who still ply their trade and whistleblowers who take great risks to reveal hidden information from the inside.

Both are urgently driven to spread the reach of our collective awareness, to uncover and expose.  This epistemic detective work is one of the corner stones of a free society.  To safeguard our freedom and to act with social and political agency, we must have knowledge.  Ignorance is a literal shackle, and one we must resist with all the fire we have.  To become ignorant is to become blind in the game of politics and civilization.  We must then rely more on others to move in the most basic of ways.  Our opinion about the war?  About health care policy?  About vaccines?  All of it, now lost to some expert’s domain.  Then what happens when we need to vote, when we need to act?

This is why we must view attacks on our citizens who search and illuminate as assaults on our freedom itself.  A tree should defend its roots.

England has a bullshit law in the “Official Secrets Act”.  They have used it to convict two men who felt revealing violence towards middle eastern journalists was more important than keeping secrets for the government.  Via Lindsay:

Larisa on how the assassination of journalists was protected by state secrets–two British men were convicted of violating the Official Secrets Act for leaking a memo that recounted a conversation in which George W. Bush proposes bombing Al Jazeera in Qatar.

Now, the civil servant and the legislator’s aide who leaked the memo have been found guilty of violating the Official Secrets Act–following a largely secret trial.

The secret trial really nails the coffin shut.  This is secret.  You are not meant to know why the government acts.  You are not meant to talk about why the government acts.  This is not the action of a democratic government, it is the action of a despotic government.  And that is just England.  America’s disregard for life, and attempt to tackle journalism speaks volumes.

And across the pond in home sweet home, we find our own government keeping secrets from itself!

Via Jonathan Schwarz:

So it seems the House Intelligence Committee may have a little more self-respect than the Senate Intelligence Committee under Jay Rockefeller. Steven Aftergood at the Federation of American Scientists points out this section of the House version of the 2008 Intelligence Authorization Act:

The Committee was dismayed at a recent incident wherein the Intelligence Community failed to inform the Congress of a significant covert action activity. This failure to notify Congress constitutes a violation of the National Security Act of 1947. Despite agency explanations that the failure was inadvertent, the Committee is deeply troubled over the fact that such an oversight could occur, whether intentionally or inadvertently.The Committee firmly believes that scrupulous transparency between the Intelligence Community and this Committee is an absolute necessity on matters related to covert action. The Committee intends this audit and reporting requirement to act as a further check against the risk of insufficient notification, whether deliberate or inadvertent.

When the emphasis on secrecy is so bad even our elected officials are out of the loop, something is deeply wrong.

We need to allow exceptions for conscientious whistleblowing and value reporters as surely as we value doctors.  Without a free flow of information, you can count on authoritarianism doing more than rearing its ugly head.  You can count on a comeback.

Military: Hmmmmm, Gays or Felons?

It is a pretty tough choice.  Fortunately our leadership has been clear about this for some time now.

Out with the gays, in with the felons.  Pam has the depressing details:

Remember, this is the same Pentagon brass that is allowing branches to lower standards and recruit people with antisocial personality disorder, autism, and troll for recruits on MySpace.

Also welcomed into the fold, as they look for warm bodies, are folks convicted of aggravated assault, robbery, vehicular manslaughter, receiving stolen property and making terrorist threats. The number of convicted felons enlisted in the U.S. military has almost doubled in the past three years, and 43,977 individuals convicted of serious misdemeanors such as assault have enlisted under the moral waivers program.

Our military will gradually consist more and more of “the few, the proud, the convicted”.  For one insane moment, let’s forget what this means for our military strength.  Think of what it does to our national honor.  Think of soldiers convicted of assault being thrown in the same pressure cooker that yielded ongoing allegations of torture that continue to this day.  Think of how international forces and civilians will view our soldiers.  What will it do to the level of trust between UN and US troops?

Because God forbid some guy with a gun likes penis.

Anyone who supports this madness gives up the mantle of national security.  You can’t pretend to care about protecting America when this is what you do to our military.