Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 11, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

CLASSIFIED....One more note about the August 6 PDB. It's true that presidential briefings are routinely classified, and rightly so. After all, PDBs sometimes contain genuinely sensitive information. What's more, as Ari Fleischer pointed out two years ago, if PDBs are at risk of routine public release the CIA "will be inclined to give [the president] less, rather than more, because they fear it will get made public and that could compromise sources or methods."

These are legitimate reasons not to routinely release presidential briefing documents. But this particular briefing was far from routine. In fact, after 9/11 it was of uncommon interest, and yet the White House has been resisting calls to declassify it for nearly two years. Up until a few months ago it was supposedly so sensitive that they wouldn't even allow the 9/11 commission to see it in private.

Now that we've all seen it, though, the national security excuse has been exposed as a sham. I've included an image of the entire document below, and aside from the redactions there isn't a single sentence that couldn't have been freely released on 9/12/2001 without doing any damage whatsoever to national security.

Too often national security seems to be just a game to this administration. They habitually engage in selective release of classified information when it suits their political purpose, and it's obvious now that national security likewise had nothing to do with holding back release of the August 6 PDB. Their motivation, as usual, was nothing more than a desire to keep something secret that might have proven embarrassing to a president running for reelection.

Nobody wants the president to release every document in his possession, nor does anyone want him to release documents that are genuinely sensitive. But specific documents should be judged on their own merits, and it's now clear that the merit-above-all-else in this White House is boosting their own political fortunes. How many other documents do you think they've held back not because they would cause even the slightest damage to national security, but simply because they might cause some damage to George Bush's reelection campaign?

Kevin Drum 7:55 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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