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Secrets about injustice revealed by Manning and Snowden, not military secrets

text-Manning,-Bradleythe reason there will be more Mannings and Snowdens is that so many American secrets are not strict military secrets but scandalous public secrets pertaining to ways the US national security state behaves that are at odds with national or international law, or in conflict with fundamental national values. Whether one condones what Snowden did or not, it is clear that he was motivated by a deep sense of indignation that his government was doing something profoundly wrong. “If you want a secret respected,” said Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, one of the country’s greatest commentators on secrecy, “see that it’s respectable in the first place.”

Snowden,-EdwardNot all secrets are alike, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists,  Hugh Gusterson “……..The second kind of secret is what anthropologists call the “public secret.” These are denied yet known. Their ambiguous status as simultaneously public and secret torques them with psychological conflict. …….  Not infrequently, as Henrik Ibsen famously dramatized in his play An Enemy of the People, opprobrium attaches most harshly not to the transgressor, but to the person who tells the truth out loud…..

Often the state’s greatest rage is directed at those who reveal public secrets, not military secrets. Richard Nixon called Daniel Ellsberg “the most dangerous man in America” not because he shared military secrets with the Vietcong (he did not), but because in giving the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times (and thus the American people), he made it impossible to deny what many already suspected—that the US government had lied about the reasons for the Vietnam War and about progress in fighting it…….
US national security officials have likewise been enraged by Bradley Manning, the US Army soldier who gave WikiLeaks 250,000 diplomatic cables and 500,000 Army reports. Although the Obama administration claims that Manning and WikiLeaks gave away military secrets, for the most part they caused embarrassment by revealing public secrets.  Many Americans had long been sure that, military propaganda notwithstanding, some American troops in Iraq were prone to using violence indiscriminately, killing innocents, and enjoying the act of killing, but Manning’s release of the “collateral murder” video, shot from a US military helicopter, gave visceral and undeniable form to inchoate knowledge. …..

Even before he was found guilty, Manning has been punished harshly. The United Nations special rapporteur on torture complained that Manning—held for months in solitary confinement, often naked, and deprived of sleep—had been subjected to “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of Article 16 of the Convention Against Torture.”

Like Manning, Edward Snowden gave away a public secret, revealing that the National Security Agency does not just spy on foreigners, but in violation of the legal framework established after the Vietnam War, also harvests vast quantities of information on the communications of American citizens, including email messages, browsing histories, postal records, and telephone metadata. When public rather than military secrets are given away, the state always insists that military security has been damaged, so it should not surprise us that the Obama administration claims Snowden gave away military secrets that will help those bent on attacking the United States. ….. The US government has secretly created a massive apparatus of domestic surveillance on the edge of the law.

American leaders say they will avoid future Mannings and Snowdens by segmenting access to information so that individual analysts cannot avail themselves of so much, and by giving fewer security clearances, especially to employees of contractors such as Booz Allen Hamilton, where Snowden worked. This will not work. Segmentation of access runs counter to the whole point of the latest intelligence strategy, which is fusion of data from disparate sources. The more Balkanized the data, the less effective the intelligence. And, as Dana Priest and William Arkin make clear in their important book Top Secret America, intelligence agencies are collecting so much information that they have to hire vast numbers of new employees, many of whom cannot be adequately vetted. Since 9/11 the National Security Agency’s workforce has grown by a third, to 33,000, and the number of private companies it relies on for contractors has tripled to close to 500. The more people know your secrets, the more likely it is they will leak out.

But, in the final analysis, the reason there will be more Mannings and Snowdens is that so many American secrets are not strict military secrets but scandalous public secrets pertaining to ways the US national security state behaves that are at odds with national or international law, or in conflict with fundamental national values. Whether one condones what Snowden did or not, it is clear that he was motivated by a deep sense of indignation that his government was doing something profoundly wrong. “If you want a secret respected,” said Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, one of the country’s greatest commentators on secrecy, “see that it’s respectable in the first place.” http://www.thebulletin.org/not-all-secrets-are-alike?utm_source=iContact&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Bulletin%20of%20the%20Atomic%20Scientists%20-%20Newsletter&utm_content=

August 7, 2013 - Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA

1 Comment »

  1. Reblogged this on JLP4D Blog.

    Comment by jlp4dp | August 7, 2013 | Reply


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