Monday, April 17, 2006


Help Wanted: Patriot

Larry Beinhart has an interesting piece on classification, showing how it works to amplify American power and how excessive classification diminishes American power. Here are a couple of thoughts that should be added to Beinhart's article. 1. Complexity is actually more important for secrecy than classification. The Navajo Codetalkers of World War II succeeded because, absent a dictionary, languages are extraordinarily complex. This is why "data mining," which imagines it will decipher that complexity is both a delusion and a danger. A delusion because the real complexity is not "sigint." It is culture and language. A danger because the one thing the people doing this can certainly achieve is massive invasion of Americans's privacy. If the NSA or DHS or whoever succeeds in "data mining" America, they will inevitably become a KGB-like secret police. 2. Things need to be declassified to the point that information can be used as trade. We do this with our allies routinely, but have also done so to increase casualties in the Iran-Iraq war. At this point, so much is classified that much of what is stamped secret has been published in public source. 3. Whatever is determined to be the optimal level of classification, we need to have a national program to educate Americans on the basic facts. If voters knew where Iran was, what the geostrategic problems are involved in conflict with them, and what the costs of conflict are, they would rationally reach a decision that it is not in the national interest of the United States to intervene. That decision should have been reached in Washington, but since it wasn't, the absence of information endangers the nation. I hope some patriot at the Pentagon decides to honor his oath to the Constitution, rather than to the man who seized the presidency, and publicize the detailed plans for any unprovoked military action.
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