The veil of secrecy: will it be lifted?
Imagine my delight coming across this month’s issue of the UK publication, Index on Censorship. It focuses on the very question I’ve been posing on this blog – what will the post-Bush era be like when it comes to freedom of expression? The issue poses the interesting question – what will it take to roll back the culture of secrecy and surveillance that Bush and his cronies established?
Some serious people with some serious chops have written articles for the issue, including Pulitzer Prize winner, Eric Lichtblau. Of particular interest to me is the article by Stephen Aftergood, entitled If In Doubt, Classify. This guy is the Director of the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy and he offers up advice to Obama on how to tackle the unprecedented growth in secrecy under Bush and how to strengthen the rule of law (which Bush gave the finger to).
Aftergood nails it when he says:” In the interests of a decent, effective and accountable government, the next administration should finally move beyond fervent hope and should start to figure out how to limit official secrecy. One way to do that would be to undertake a systematic review of agency classification policy and practice”. And he also points out just how ridiculous the whole secrecy of information business grew under Bush. Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said in 2004: ‘It may very well be that a lot of information is classified that shouldn’t be or it’s classified for a period longer than it should be. And maybe we’ve got to find a better way to manage that as well.’
And then there’s a great article, Legislating in the Dark, by Patrick Radden Keefe author of Chatter: Dispatches from the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping (which must be the only book on secrecy and surveillance I haven’t read – I sniff a Xmas Amazon order for me!). Keefe examines Bush’s love for eavesdropping and oversight of the surveillance programme was well….missing in action…because Bush gave the finger to Congress and violated the key prohibition of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act 1978 (FISA) – thou shalt not eavesdrop and spy on American citizens without a warrant. Bush forgot he needed the permission of Congress to establish his wiretapping programme following 9/11. Dick Cheney opposed FISA back in the 1970s and so was never keen to see any form of Legislative or Congressional control. Mind you, I ask where the hell has Congress been in the last few years? Why hasn’t an investigation into Bush’s illegal wiretapping and State surveillance taken place?? For the lawyers amongst us, there’s some very interesting discussion in this article, particularly around whether FISA itself was unconstitutional.
And then there’s an article by Jameel Jaffer, the Director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, called Unfinished Business – about the remaining secrets of the Bush Administration. You mean there’s MORE??? Quick – off for a lie down.