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Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

How much classified information does the US need?

If you work in the Pentagon or the US Energy Department, the answer to that question is: 'A whole lot more than exists now — especially if that info concerns nuclear weapons.' That kind of attitude, of course, can lead people to start classifying pretty strange stuff. Just like paranoiacs in the Pentagon and Energy Dept. have been doing.


Before and after nuclear data was censored

Nixon's nuclear doctrine before and after the censors.
[Source: National Security Archive]


From a briefing book on document re-classification from the National Security Archive:
The Pentagon and the Energy Department have now stamped as national security secrets the long-public numbers of U.S. nuclear missiles during the Cold War, including data from the public reports of the Secretaries of Defense in 1967 and 1971, according to government documents posted today on the Web by the National Security Archive....

Pentagon and Energy officials have now blacked out from previously public charts the numbers of Minuteman missiles (1,000), Titan II missiles (54), and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (656) in the historic U.S. Cold War arsenal, even though four Secretaries of Defense (McNamara, Laird, Richardson, Schlesinger) reported strategic force levels publicly in the 1960s and 1970s.

The security censors also have blacked out deployment information about U.S nuclear weapons in Great Britain and Germany that was declassified in 1999, as well as nuclear deployment arrangements with Canada, even though the Canadian government has declassified its side of the arrangement.

While it would be easy to blame Dubya for the censorship, it actually got going several years before he took office as the result of the Kyl-Lott amendments passed by the GOP-controlled Congress in 1998. As a result of the amendment, the Energy Department alone has re-classified over 6000 document pages — mainly having to do with nuclear weapons. Dubya, it seems, is only responsible for accelerating the pace of re-classification since 2001.

This re-classification isn't just of interest to historians and nuclear experts:
"The government is reclassifying public data at the same time that government prosecutors are claiming the power to go after anybody who has 'unauthorized possession" of classified information," said Archive director Thomas Blanton. "What's really at risk is accountability in government."

Basically, Dubya's administration is setting up a situation where journalists, activists, or whistleblowers could face criminal prosecution for releasing data that was public knowledge for decades. And, given the secrecy with which the re-classification process has proceeded, it would be easily possible to be in 'unauthorized possession' of secret information without even realizing it.

You have to ask just who Dubya's administration and the GOP are protecting the country from, don't you?

| | Posted by Magpie at 9:41 AM | Get permalink




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