On Sunday, the Seattle Times ran a column by Miami Herald columnist made the ironic claim that George W. Bush is the first Information Age president ironic, because this administration has repeatedly shown contempt for the right of the people to know what's going on. -- Pitts argued that an informed electorate is the lifeblood of democracy, the ultimate check on despotic ambitions. -- The Washington Post article by Christopher Lee to which Pitts refers reported on Aug. 21 that The Bush administration has begun designating as secret some information that the government long provided even to its enemy the former Soviet Union: the numbers of strategic weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during the Cold War. The Pentagon and the Department of Energy are treating as national security secrets the historical totals of Minuteman, Titan II, and other missiles, blacking out the information on previously public documents, according to a new report by the National Security Archive. -- As Dwight David Eisenhower warned in his 1961 Farewell Address, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together (emphasis added). ...
THE BUSH DOCTRINE OF IGNORANCE
By Leonard Pitts
August 27, 2006
The conventional wisdom has it that John F. Kennedy was the first television president.
Meaning not that he was president when the medium began to impact the nation -- that distinction goes to Dwight Eisenhower -- but that he was the first to understand its potential and exploit its power. The signature illustration is the famous debate with Richard Nixon. People who watched it on television felt the handsome, vigorous Democrat trounced the ailing, haggard Republican. Curiously enough, many of those who only heard the debate on radio gave the edge to Nixon.
Forty-six years later, I submit to you that we are undergoing a similarly seismic moment in presidential communication: George W. Bush is the first Information Age president.
Like Kennedy, he arrived a little late; he was not in office when information access became the currency of daily life. Yet, he was the first president to understand the potential and exploit the power of that development. Unfortunately, he does so to our detriment. While Kennedy used television to expand presidential influence, Bush has controlled information toward a more dubious end: the curtailment of that great threat to imperial power, the informed electorate.
Last week, the Washington Post ran a fascinating story based on a report from the National Security Archive, a research library at George Washington University. According to the report, the Bush administration has been blacking out previously public documents on the nation's strategic military capabilities. They are doing this, they say, in the name of national security. Got a question on the Minuteman missile? Tough. Curious about the Titan II? Too bad. [See #2 below.]
Now maybe you wonder what the problem is. This is sensitive information we're talking about, right? Can't have that falling into just anybody's hands, right?
The thing is, it's already in "anybody's" hands: it dates back half a century to the Cold War. We're talking about memos, charts, and papers that have over the years been cited in open congressional hearings, reported in newspapers, used in history books. We're talking about information our government long ago deemed innocuous enough to provide even to its former enemy, the Soviet Union.
And now -- "now!" -- we're supposed to believe it's suddenly so sensitive it has to be classified Top Secret? Please.
This is a classic case of locking the barn after the horse has escaped -- and died of old age. More to the point, it is a classic and absurd example of the present regime's mania for secrecy, its obsessive need to control what, when, how, and why you and I learn about its activities.
Anyone who doesn't see a pattern here has not been paying attention. From its 18-hour blackout of news that the vice president had shot a man, to its paying a newspaper columnist to write favorable pieces, to its habit of putting out video press releases disguised as TV news, to its penchant for stamping top secret on anything that doesn't move fast enough, this administration has repeatedly shown contempt for the right of the people to know what's going on. At a time when information is more readily available than ever, this government is working like 1952 to enforce ignorance.
And the people, too many of them, shrug and say okey-dokey. As if we learned nothing from Abscam, Iran-contra, Vietnam and Watergate. As if it's OK for an arrogant and paternalistic government to decide for us what we get to know.
Well, it's not. An informed electorate is the lifeblood of democracy, the ultimate check on despotic ambitions.
One wonders if most people get this. One suspects that most people do not. How can you get it and not be outraged? How can you get it and not feel fear? Apparently, some of us don't understand the stakes here.
It's not just information they're trying to control.
COLD WAR MISSILES TARGET OF BLACKOUT
By Christopher Lee
** Documents Altered To Conceal Data **
August 21, 2006
The Bush administration has begun designating as secret some information that the government long provided even to its enemy the former Soviet Union: the numbers of strategic weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during the Cold War.
The Pentagon and the Department of Energy are treating as national security secrets the historical totals of Minuteman, Titan II, and other missiles, blacking out the information on previously public documents, according to a new report by the National Security Archive. The archive is a nonprofit research library housed at George Washington University.
"It would be difficult to find more dramatic examples of unjustifiable secrecy than these decisions to classify the numbers of U.S. strategic weapons," wrote William Burr, a senior analyst at the archive who compiled the report. ". . . The Pentagon is now trying to keep secret numbers of strategic weapons that have never been classified before."
The report comes at a time when the Bush administration's penchant for government secrecy has troubled researchers and bred controversy over agency efforts to withhold even seemingly innocuous information. The National Archives was embroiled in scandal during the spring when it was disclosed that the agency had for years kept secret a reclassification program under which the CIA, the Air Force, and other agencies removed thousands of records from public shelves.
One month after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft instructed federal agencies to be more mindful of national security when deciding whether to publicly release documents under the Freedom of Information Act. Last year, in a study of FOIA requests at 22 agencies from 2000 to 2004, the nonpartisan Coalition of Journalists for Open Government found that agencies cited reasons to withhold unclassified information 22 percent more often than before Ashcroft's directive.
The administration's affinity for secrecy also was exemplified in its legal battle to withhold the names of oil company executives and others who attended meetings in 2001 of a White House task force that helped draft a national energy policy. More recently, President Bush has made clear his administration's willingness to prosecute individuals it believes unlawfully possess classified material.
Maj. Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, said officials strive to properly apply rules governing what should be classified and are researching why the missile information cited in the archive report was blacked out. The report was released Friday.
"The Department of Defense takes the responsibility of classifying information seriously," Ryder said. "This includes classifying information at the lowest level possible."
Bryan Wilkes, a spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration, a part of the Energy Department, said the Pentagon excised the missile numbers. Under a 1998 law, Wilkes's agency focuses on scrubbing declassified documents for sensitive U.S. nuclear weapons information that, in the wrong hands, could be used to harm Americans, he said.
"It's not our call to do missile data," Wilkes said. "There's no question that current classified nuclear weapons data was out there that we had to take back," he added. "And in today's environment, where there is a great deal of concern about rogue nations or terrorist groups getting access to nuclear weapons, this makes a lot of sense."
Archive officials say the Pentagon was using guidelines developed by the Energy Department in blacking out the missile data.
During the Cold War, the United States devoted substantial manpower and money to counting Soviet missiles, experts said. At the same time, U.S. officials sometimes were quite open about the number of American missiles, using the data to illustrate the deterrent power of the U.S. nuclear arsenal and to make the case for more defense spending. Indeed, such numbers were routinely disclosed in annual reports to Capitol Hill by secretaries of defense dating to at least the 1960s, according to Burr.
In a 1971 appearance before the House Armed Services Committee, for instance, Defense Secretary Melvin R. Laird offered a chart showing, among other things, that the United States had 30 strategic bomber squadrons, 54 Titan intercontinental ballistic missiles, and 1,000 Minuteman missiles.
Those numbers, made public on March 9, 1971, are redacted in a copy of the chart obtained by the archive's researchers in January as part of a declassified government history of the U.S. air and missile defense system, according to archive officials.
"It's yet another example of silly secrecy," said Thomas Blanton, the archive's director.
In another case, Burr cited two declassified copies of a 75-page memo on military policy issues that Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara sent to President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, one obtained from the National Archives in 1999 and the other from the Pentagon this year.
In the 2006 copy, Pentagon reviewers blacked out numbers that were left untouched in the earlier version, including the number of ballistic missile launchers and the number of heavy bombers the United States expected to have in 1965, 1967, and 1970. (Comparative numbers for the Soviet Union were left alone.)
Burr also compared two copies of a memo that Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wrote for President Gerald R. Ford for a 1974 National Security Council meeting on arms control negotiations.
One copy, obtained from the NSC through a Freedom of Information Act request in 1999, has visible references to "200 older B-52 bombers" and 240 Trident missiles, among other weapons data. In the second copy, released by the Gerald R. Ford Library in May 2006, such information is blacked out -- as is similar data for the Soviet Union.
Experts say there is no national security reason for the administration to keep such historical information under wraps -- especially when it has been publicly available for years.
Robert S. Norris, a senior research associate at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said U.S. officials handed more detailed accounts of the U.S. nuclear arsenal over to the Soviets as part of the two Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties (START) and the two Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) agreements in the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s.
"Is that now going to be reclassified?" asked Norris. "I would say that the horse is out of the barn and they are only making themselves look ridiculous. At someone's direction, declassification reviewers have gotten carried away and are applying the rather vague and open-ended guidelines to the point of absurdity."
Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy, said the report illustrates how arbitrary the classification system is.
"Information is classified not because it's sensitive, but because somebody says it is classified," he said. "Several years into the 21st century, we still haven't figured out how to do classification policy right, and the government is still botching the matter."
By Dwight David Eisenhower
January 17, 1961
My fellow Americans:
Three days from now, after half a century in the service of our country, I shall lay down the responsibilities of office as, in traditional and solemn ceremony, the authority of the Presidency is vested in my successor.
This evening I come to you with a message of leave-taking and farewell, and to share a few final thoughts with you, my countrymen.
Like every other citizen, I wish the new President, and all who will labor with him, Godspeed. I pray that the coming years will be blessed with peace and prosperity for all.
Our people expect their President and the Congress to find essential agreement on issues of great moment, the wise resolution of which will better shape the future of the Nation.
My own relations with the Congress, which began on a remote and tenuous basis when, long ago, a member of the Senate appointed me to West Point, have since ranged to the intimate during the war and immediate post-war period, and, finally, to the mutually interdependent during these past eight years.
In this final relationship, the Congress and the Administration have, on most vital issues, cooperated well, to serve the national good rather than mere partisanship, and so have assured that the business of the Nation should go forward. So, my official relationship with the Congress ends in a feeling, on my part, of gratitude that we have been able to do so much together.
We now stand ten years past the midpoint of a century that has witnessed four major wars among great nations. Three of these involved our own country. Despite these holocausts America is today the strongest, the most influential and most productive nation in the world. Understandably proud of this pre-eminence, we yet realize that America's leadership and prestige depend, not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches and military strength, but on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment.
Throughout America's adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among people and among nations. To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people. Any failure traceable to arrogance, or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us grievous hurt both at home and abroad.
Progress toward these noble goals is persistently threatened by the conflict now engulfing the world. It commands our whole attention, absorbs our very beings. We face a hostile ideology -- global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. Unhappily the danger is poses promises to be of indefinite duration. To meet it successfully, there is called for, not so much the emotional and transitory sacrifices of crisis, but rather those which enable us to carry forward steadily, surely, and without complaint the burdens of a prolonged and complex struggle -- with liberty the stake. Only thus shall we remain, despite every provocation, on our charted course toward permanent peace and human betterment.
Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties. A huge increase in newer elements of our defense; development of unrealistic programs to cure every ill in agriculture; a dramatic expansion in basic and applied research -- these and many other possibilities, each possibly promising in itself, may be suggested as the only way to the road we wish to travel.
But each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs -- balance between the private and the public economy, balance between cost and hoped for advantage -- balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable; balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual; balance between actions of the moment and the national welfare of the future. Good judgment seeks balance and progress; lack of it eventually finds imbalance and frustration.
The record of many decades stands as proof that our people and their government have, in the main, understood these truths and have responded to them well, in the face of stress and threat. But threats, new in kind or degree, constantly arise. I mention two only.
A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.
Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.
Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.
In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.
Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.
The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.
Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientifictechnological elite.
It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system -- ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.
Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society's future, we -- you and I, and our government -- must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.
Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.
Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.
Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and apparent I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with a definite sense of disappointment. As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war -- as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years -- I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight.
Happily, I can say that war has been avoided. Steady progress toward our ultimate goal has been made. But, so much remains to be done. As a private citizen, I shall never cease to do what little I can to help the world advance along that road.
So -- in this my last good night to you as your President -- I thank you for the many opportunities you have given me for public service in war and peace. I trust that in that service you find some things worthy; as for the rest of it, I know you will find ways to improve performance in the future.
You and I -- my fellow citizens -- need to be strong in our faith that all nations, under God, will reach the goal of peace with justice. May we be ever unswerving in devotion to principle, confident but humble with power, diligent in pursuit of the Nation's great goals.
To all the peoples of the world, I once more give expression to America's prayerful and continuing aspiration:
We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.