A Hidden Truth ?
What situation justifies the authority to classify information? What circumstances would be regarded as a legitimate excuse for classified information?
To begin with, secrecy has always been a part of government affairs; probably, ever since the beginning of civilization. As a general unspoken rule, it was considered standard practice by the ruling elite for the attainment of many different objectives. In the past, this was a practice found mainly in diplomatic channels and, to a lesser degree, among the military agencies. It was only with the advent of professional armies, during the late nineteenth century, when secrecy became a growing feature in the military. But, even then, it was hardly an obvious presence in civilian life. Furthermore, one can find evidence of this practice, not only in government affairs, but also in corporate affairs. However, prior to World War 2, this was an area of expertise that had always been discreetly professed by the State Department. In foreign affairs, it was deemed necessary in diplomatic conduct. To ensure the safety of procedures and affairs between governments, secrecy was an indispensable part of diplomacy. In a sense, one could say that secrecy was an artform in the area of statesmanship.
With the advent of the Cold War, this artform attained independent status. It was released from captivity. In its basic structure, it found its origins from the “Manhattan Project.” In its foundations, this bureaucracy found its impetus from NSC 68.
The main distinguishing feature of this aspect of government in our modern era has been the scale and the amount of resources involved in its functions and operations. Never before, in the history of government, has the art of secrecy been centralized under one structure devoted exclusively to this artform. The practice had always been a part of multiple larger heirarchies. As a pivotal point in their evolution, the second world war was a transition point for their eventual transformation into a centralized organization. In its basic structure, The “Manhattan Project” formalized this framework. The conditions that prevailed at the end of the war provided the basis and rationale for establishing this centralized structure. These were conditions that were disputably considered a threat to America.
These institutions of secrecy were initially established and designated under the NSA (National Security Agency). It was a response to Communism as a threat to Capitalism. From this basis of a presumed threat, these institutions derived its rationale from the basic right to survive. As a significant component of the government, it found its genesis through both the “Manhattan Project” and NSC 68. Furthermore, on this basis, these institutions of secrecy have their counterparts in most other countries; surprisingly, even in third world countries. Consequently, the institution of secrecy has been established on a global basis.
From this brief summary, we can somehow appreciate the circumstances by which national security protocols may precede and override other issues. Its objectives and motivations are presumably self-explanatory. Based as it is on legal foundations, it assumes responsibility for the nations’ security. However, since security through this legal foundation was never sufficiently defined, we are left with a structure with no set boundaries. Precautionary measures were never placed to prevent unaccountable and unforeseen events. Hence, security, by this very general definition, can have progressively wide applications. A security risk can depend on many different and constantly changing variables. What may not have been considered a security risk before may, due to many factors, change in the near future. Additionally, a security risk can cover non-military aspects. Anything deemed as a risk to the economy, the physical well-being of the people, and the structural integrity of the military will be subject to certain restrictions. In essence, anything that compromises the survival of the country will be subject to security measures. As a result, national security can cover diverse areas that the government may consider pertinent to this objective.
As an institution that is averse to a certain level of risk, we are then able to relate this concern to our current dilemma with the banks: “Too Big To Fail !”
The question remains; whose interests are ultimately being served ? And, by the same token, whose interests are being denied ? These are questions that normally concerns any form of society. As a form of democracy, our government should presumably be faithful to established democratic principles. And, in accordance with these principles, it is often stated that, “the needs of the many outweighs the needs of the few.” Ideally, most of us would hope for such an outcome. We all believe that the government has this concern in mind.
Perhaps, from a larger context, we may be able to perceive certain flaws and inefficiencies in this institution. We may somehow infer an imbalance. In this way, many of our concerns may be allayed to our satisfaction.
In the pursuance of national security objectives, many countries have adopted the American framework in their respective governments. Not all countries, however, are created equal. Each country will have relative advantages and disadvantages in its relations with other countries and entities; by entities, I am referring to multinational corporations which in many cases tend to be more powerful than a number of smaller countries. And, in the scheme of things, being a participant who wishes to enjoy the fruits of our globalized economy, a country will unavoidably have to submit to established parameters; parameters that have been formulated and constructed based on western standards.
Now, if these parameters are perceived as being based on a foundation of fairness and equity, then the system will find coherence and agreement among its members. The system finds validation and reinforcement. Otherwise, in the absence of a minimum level of tolerance and compromise, the system will have to resort to force through various ways and means.
With the breakdown of the Soviet Union, western civilization has never been more secure. America has never been more reassured of its position as a superpower than it is nowadays. Given the complications and risks involved in the previous Cold War between the two superpowers, one would think that our situation has improved. Given a choice between an adversary equipped with comparable weapons and a lesser threat that resorts to acts of defiance and desperation, one would normally recognize the difference between both threats. And, yet, in spite of the relative improvement in Americas’ position and in the affairs of governments, we have, for the past few years, been subjected to a belief that our way of life and, our very civilization will come to an end. Formulated by the establishment, we have been told that terrorism has endangered our very survival. We have been told through a convoluted act of mental gymnastics that Islam is antithetical to all our values. Reinforced by pundits through the art of pursuasion, we have been conditioned to accept the inevitable “Clash of Civilizations.” From a Cold War threat, our situation has somehow transformed into a larger threat by virtue of the larger commitment of resources towards national security. In addition to the Cold War institutions and relics, we have now created and added the Homeland Security to our arsenal of defense.
I don’t know how any of you feel about this narrative, but, it reminds me of Professor Smith from “Lost in Space”: “We’re doomed ! We’re doomed ! ” At least, the Robot is more believable when it flails about and shouts: “Danger! Danger!” You know the Robot is basing his reaction from facts. The Robot happens to be more rational. Furthermore, there is a distinct difference in their reactions. One is a reaction predicated on a sense of despair and hopelessness while the other is not. And, this is exactly what it amounts to folks !!!
Terrorism is essentially an act of desperation. And, being an act of desperation, it will necessarily be open to other sympathizers who may not even share any of their political or ideological aspirations. Given the circumstances, our responses have proceeded from a very unsound and volatile basis. It is unsound, not only based on the disproportionate use of resources against a minimal threat, but also due to our inaccurate understanding of the problem. Not only has the problem not been addressed correctly, it has been manipulated to the disadvantage of many innocent civilians. Instead of a concern for substantial issues, the establishment has manipulated the debate towards trivialities. The public has been driven into a form of paranoia in their neurotic concerns for veils, hoods, and other trifles. As such, there is a pervasive sense of unease and disharmony on many levels.
Our current situation is due, in no small part, to the many misconceptions, distortions, and disinformation. The establishment has not been fully upfront in acounting for the actual threats involved. We have not been given a complete picture of the basis for their decisions. The total amount of resources employed does not match the actual threat. In short, the whole situation does not add up. As a result, due to the many inconsistencies, many concerns have not been appropriately addressed. Many questions have yet to be answered. These are answers that are way overdue; answers that we may have to demand from no one else but, ourselves.