Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 21, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

STATE SECRETS....Yesterday I mentioned that Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen who was kidnapped, drugged, flown to a secret prison in Afghanistan, and held for five months despite the fact that he was entirely innoncent and was merely the victim of mistaken identity had his lawsuit turned down on Thursday after the government asserted the state secrets privilege. Tom Blanton, the director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University, comments:

When the government claims the "state secrets privilege," the courts tend to look no further, and the cases are dismissed. It was invoked only four times in the first 23 years after the U.S. Supreme Court created the privilege in 1953, but now the government is claiming the privilege to dismiss lawsuits at a rate of more than three a year. The Justice Department describes this tactic as an "absolute privilege" in effect, a neutron bomb that leaves no plaintiff standing.

But can we trust the government when it tells us that national security is at stake? Should the government's claim of secrecy result in an immediate, no-questions-asked dismissal? Probably not, given the government's track record.

....President Reagan's executive secretary at the National Security Council, career Navy officer Rodney McDaniel, told a blue-ribbon commission looking at classification in 1997 that only 10% of the secrecy stamps were for "legitimate protection of secrets."

....Erwin Griswold, who as U.S. solicitor general prosecuted the New York Times in the Pentagon Papers case in 1971, once explained the real motivation behind government secrecy...."It quickly becomes apparent to any person who has considerable experience with classified material that there is massive overclassification and that the principal concern of the classifiers is not with national security, but with governmental embarrassment of one sort or another," he wrote.

The Bush administration complains that there are too many leaks of critical government secrets these days. I have two suggestions for reducing this problem: (a) stop breaking the law whenever our backs are turned, and (b) stop classifying every word ever written just because it might cause you some political problems. If you did that, maybe we'd all take your complaints a little more seriously.

Kevin Drum 12:38 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (24)

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"The Bush administration complains that there are too many leaks of critical government secrets these days. I have two suggestions for reducing this problem: (a) stop breaking the law whenever our backs are turned, and (b) stop classifying every word ever written just because it might cause you some political problems."

Amen to that! The fact that Bushco can't figure this out is further evidence that they are 1) incompetent; 2) ignorant; 3) evil; 4) arrogant.

Posted by: PTate in MN on May 21, 2006 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Well said, and exactly right.

Posted by: Mike on May 21, 2006 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

But they don't care whether we take their claims of secrecy seriously. As long as the courts continue to abet them with this ploy, they will continue to get away with it.

Posted by: dj moonbat on May 21, 2006 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

Why wouldn't the Bush administration move to dismiss the case, after all Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen, is guilty of having an Arab sounding name. If he didn't want to be kidnapped and held in a secret prison he whould have changed his name to Wilhelm Schmitt. He was asking for it.

He is just lucky they dumped him on a road in a third country hundreds of miles from home. If some of the trolls on this board had their way he would have just disappeared.

The fact is the US administration's dodging of responsiblity in this case is shameful. It is up to the American people to deal with this gang of heartless criminals. 9/11 didn't change everything. You can't say that GWB's decisions to ignore the law.

This case is another reason why you should vote against anybody who calls himself a Republican.

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 21, 2006 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

actually, our backs aren't turned -- it's willful neglect. you have the enthusiastic complicity of a good segment of the wdc media who envision themselves players in some '24' episodes. recall the fevered commentary of chris matthews, et al when they rationalized torture; hell, howard fineman in a recent column ditched his bush 'cowboy' fantasy, and suggested the new costume identity of jack bauer for bush.

it's not only congress and the executive who need to be purged, but must also include those maggots in the wdc press corps -- particularly the teevee chatterboxes -- who are just as complicit in the degradation of all that this country supposedly stands represents.

Posted by: linda on May 21, 2006 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Kevin Drum: If you don't want democratcs to leak state secrets, do it yourself!

Posted by: American Hawk on May 21, 2006 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

I left out the word "about" in the sentence "you can't say that aboutGWB's decisions to ignore the law."

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 21, 2006 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Jonathan Turley wrote a rather scathing piece last week that touched upon some of this. I particularly liked this passage:

If successful in the AIPAC case, the Bush administration would make it a crime for a reporter to disclose classified information, even if the story reveals a criminal operation. Thus, even if the NSA program is a criminal enterprise, it is a classified criminal enterprise that cannot be disclosed. It would have been mob boss John Gotti's dream: Commit a crime and then stamp it classified.

http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20060517/oplede17.art.htm

Freedom is on the march...

Posted by: Cognitive Dissonance on May 21, 2006 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Kevin Drum: If you don't want democratcs to leak state secrets, do it yourself!
Posted by: American Hawk

Even shorter American Chickenhawk:

"I'm a dumbas who can't read."

Posted by: MeLoseBrain? on May 21, 2006 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

The Bush penchant for hyper-secrecy was evident from day one of his presidency. After all, one of the first things he did upon assuming office was to classify essentially for perpetuity all of his father's papers and Reagan's papers.

In a way, he was quite right about him being dead when history judges him: He will no doubt have every scrap of paper from his two terms classified for 200 years.

Posted by: Derelict on May 21, 2006 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

This whole admisitration is a case study in ass-covering of the most venal kind. The fact that they've used leaks as a political weapon every step of the way (remember Ken Starr, anyone?) and then creamed whistleblowers tells you all you need to know.

Their essential incompetence is the only thing that will save us from this gang, since they've figured out how to game every part of the system -- they just don't know what to with it when they win, since, let's face it, they'd rather torture than promote the good of the country.

Posted by: Kenji on May 21, 2006 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

Again, for an administration that is at war against "those who hate our freedoms", it has been all to easy to surrender those hard-won freedoms.

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on May 21, 2006 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Al nails it -- if we don't torture random brown people, they won't all know to be afraid of our Manly Government.

And don't give me that crap about it leading to more hatred of the U.S.!

Posted by: Freedom Phukher on May 21, 2006 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

a true conservative would be outraged at the conduct of this administration. but you know, there seems to be so few of them out there these days. most of those who cloak themselves as conservative are fakers, people who care only for themselves; the good of the country, the rights of individuals, the constitution are a distant second.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on May 21, 2006 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Since the USSR state apparatus is gone, we are free to emulate it without the risk of sounding hypocritical. That's all there is to it. The brilliance of our founding fathers was in their ability to recognize the inevitability of abusive state power unless there are real checks and balances. GWB, with the cooperation of the Republicans and timid aquiescence of the Democrats, is dismantling the edifice conceived over two hundred years ago, brick by brick, stone by stone.

Posted by: lib on May 21, 2006 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

Derelict: classify essentially for perpetuity all of his father's papers and Reagan's papers

What one president classifies, another can declassify.

Posted by: karog on May 21, 2006 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

The "state secrets privilege" has been bullshit from the first time it was used to the most recent. The first time, the Hair Farce said if they had to reveal the records of a crash to a family suing because they thought the records would demonsrate malfeasance and culpability on the part of the Hair Farce in causing the crash. So, 50 years later, under the 50-year rule, the records get opened, and guess what (surprise surprise)??? They reveal no "state secrets" beyond Hair Farce malfeasance and culpability in causing the accident through poor maintenance and falsification of records.

From that case to the case of Khaled al-Masri, invocation of the "state secrets privilege" is practically absolute proof that the pinstriped pimp from the (In)Justice Department is lying even without his lips moving.

Just like they invoked (and lost) the privilege with regard to the Pentagon Papers case, which only revealed 25 years of government mendacity, bullshit, lying, coverup and out-and-out war crimes.

When someone from the government tells you it's Sunday, check two calendars and ask for a second opinion from an independent source.

Posted by: TCinLA on May 21, 2006 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

The real favor the Bush Administration is doing us here, is teaching everyone a lesson:

Don't name your kids names of terrorists, and no harm will come to them.

Pick some nice traditional peace-loving christian white-folk names, like Timothy, or McVeigh.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on May 21, 2006 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

What one president classifies, another can declassify.
Posted by: karog on May 21, 2006 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

. . . apparently retroactively. . .

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on May 21, 2006 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK
The fact is the US administration's dodging of responsiblity in this case is shameful.

Its shameful that the US officials willfully engaged in acts that were crimes (as torture) under US law, and which they had to have know were such crimes, and which would have been just as criminal even if it hadn't been a case of mistaken identity.

Posted by: cmdicely on May 21, 2006 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, shameful is the word. And I assume there are more wrongly imprisoned people in our network of secret prisons, people our government is afraid to release purely to avoid embarassment.

A couple of questions--

1. Is Germany doing anything to assert the human rights of its citizen El-Masri?

2. Is there a chance that some brave federal judge will fashion an argument for probing behind the assertion of state secret by the government? Federal judges have lifetime tenure for a reason, and this doctrine smells like an invitation to malfeasance.

Posted by: Hal on May 21, 2006 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

This behavior is perfectly in line with Lindsay's analytic post at Majikthise. It's a doozy !

Posted by: opit on May 21, 2006 at 11:43 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: biu991 on May 22, 2006 at 12:35 AM | PERMALINK

Of course it's a state secret. If it went to trial, we would discover beyond denial how corrupt, malign and incompetent the whole detention system was and remains to be.

Posted by: Kija on May 22, 2006 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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