I read a news report today saying that the Bush Administration is going after "leaks" with a vengeance.
After having been stung by reports of extraordinary rendition (kidnapping citizens of allied countries and shipping them to countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, and Egypt for torture), torture sometimes until death, secret Presidential orders suspending the 4th Amendment to the Constitution – an amendment that specifically states that there will be no spying on Americans without a warrant, and similar embarrassments, the Administration wants to take steps to make sure no more information gets out.
First, one has to wonder, with these being the types of things that the Bush Administration has already been caught in, we must now ask what else is out there that it is trying to hide.
Second, there are two issues associated with this.
First, with this crack down on leaks, what is the Administration going to do the next time it wants to reveal the identity of a covert CIA operative where it is useful in embarrassing a critic of the Administration?
This Administration that is cracking down on leaks is also an administration that leaks information when it serves a political purpose. Yet, it is doubtful that this crackdown will include those within the administration who has authorized or participated in these leaks.
This suggests that the Bush Administration is not actually interested in a crackdown against leaks. "Leaking information to the press" and “receiving leaked information” are not the crimes that this administration is actually seeking to punish. Rather, the crimes it seeks to punish are "revealing and/or receiving information that embarrasses the Administration". Those who leak information in ways that benefit the Administration will get an instant get-out-of-jail-free card. Only those who give information opposed to the Administration will be tracked down and punished.
This means that reporters, when they receive information, are going to have to make an evaluation. After hearing classified information, they will have to ask themselves, "Does this benefit the Administration?" If it does, then they will be able to receive the information and print it without repercussions.
If, however, they see the information as damaging to the Administration, they should take this as evidence that they are taking their freedom into their own hands if they should let the information out.
From this, we can rest assured that we, the public, are going to hear more pro-Administration information and less anti-Administration information. From this, we are somehow supposed to make an informed decision as to the quality of the work that this Administration does.
Furthermore, the question still remains: Given what we have learned about this Administration as a result of these leaks -- the torture of prisoners sometimes to death, spying on Americans, extraordinary renditions, and the like -- this still raises questions about what this Administration is doing that we have not yet heard about. These draconian measures are being used to keep people silent about something. What is it?
Second, there is a fundamental conflict between a secret government and a democratic nation. In a democracy, the people decide what type of government they want. It is axiomatic that the people cannot make an informed decision unless they have information. Controlling information is a way of controlling the voter. It is a tool in an attempt to undermine democracy by depriving the people of the most important thing they need to make democracy work.
Clearly, the government must keep some information secret. In World War II, it would have been stupid for the government to announce that it was considering a plan to land forces on Normandy Beach on June 6th, 1942. Nor does it make sense to say that the government should have announced to the world that it had broken the Nazi Enigma code and was listening in on German communications.
Anybody who attempts to portray the objections to Bush's secrecy in these terms is missing the point. There were no questions about the moral legitimacy of landing allied troops at Normandy or of listening in on German military communications. These were, of course, perfectly legitimate activities.
However, the Bush Administration is not complaining about the exposure of clearly legitimate military plans. Instead, the Bush Administration is embarrassed precisely by the fact that it has been caught red-handed in actions that many Americans consider to be immoral – and which some would not want to support with their vote.
The problem with the American public learning about the NSA wiretapping is not that some secret (but clearly legitimate) operation has been revealed. The problem is that the people learned that the Bush Administration was doing something that they could not support.
The problem with extraordinary rendition, secret prisons, and torture until death is not that somebody revealed a daring military plan. It is that somebody exposed activities that many Americans who would otherwise support Bush would not be able to support.
The Bush Administration is not seeking to deceive the enemy in the war on terror as much as he is attempting to deceive the American voter. In this, the Bush Administration is subverting democracy. It is trying to people to vote for something by hiding the fact that it contains elements that those same people would vote against. In short, it seeks to gain votes under false pretext, creating a government that does not, in fact, represent the will of the people.
These points simply highlight another instance of Bush hypocrisy. The Administration claims that it is pro-Democracy. Yet, in its actions, it subverts democracy.
Democracy requires informed and knowledgeable voters. The Bush Administration need not tell the voters everything that it is doing. However, it has an obligation to tell the voters the moral principles that it will use in making those decisions.
This Administration lies. The leaks that have come to light are leaks that show that this Administration is evil by its own standards of right and wrong -- or at least the standards they profess up until the leak is known.
This still leaves us with one unanswered question. Since we know that this Administration has no moral compass, and that its primary interest in blocking leaks is to prevent the people from learning about the immoral activities it is engaged in, what other immoral activities are they trying to hide?