Monday, November 29, 2010

WikiLeaks performs a service, even if illegal

It has been amusing seeing various establishment figures trying to work up a sincere dudgeon over the release of State Dept. cable traffic that has turned out to be more amusing and titillating than dangerous to national security, whatever that is. I've done a few things for the Register on the drop and will do more (the links, by the way, are themselves links-rich). But personally I can make a pretty good case that there should be no government secrets kept from the taxpayers, who are paying for the government and deserve to know what the government is doing in their names. The prospect doesn't frighten me even a little bit. Government keeping secrets from us is more dangerous to our liberty than any foreign threat.

Few foreign diplomats will be shocked to know that U.S. diplomats say things in cables back home that they wouldn't say in public; they all do it. The notion that keeping more things secret can be equated with security is utterly fallacious. Even the establishment 9/11 commission noted that too-strict compartmentalization and turf jealousy almost certainly contributed to a failure to onnect the dots before 9/11.

My first experience with the classification system came when my dad, who was a chemist working for General Dynamics, got me a go-fer job there two summers. Even as a go-fer I had to be cleared to see classified material, since parts slated for incoming inspection were often classified or accom0anied by blueprints or schematics that were classified. It struck me that little of this classifications was really necessary. The impression was strengthened during the years I spent in Washington, noting that much classification seemed to serve no other purpose than making people who were already more egotisticsl than healthy feel self-important because they had access you didn't -- though at various times I did have pretty good access depending on who was employing me.

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