• Wanna Know a Secret? Ask the State Department

    December 9, 2011

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: * Most Popular, Embassy/State, Other Ideas

    A brief recap:

    Bradley Manning or someone released a bazillion classified State Department cables to the world via Wikileaks, State Department would not confirm any of the cables as genuine, blocks access inside Foggy Bottom where people do have security clearances and could thus legally read the cables, and takes away my security clearance for linking to one of those cables on this blog.

    Then those bad, bad boys and girls at the ACLU file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and lawsuit seeking twenty-three cables that had been previously disclosed by WikiLeaks and widely distributed online and in the press.

    And what does the State Department do?

    It released eleven of the ACLU-requested documents, with redactions. That means that all you or anyone on earth need to do is compare the State-released version with the Wikileaks-released version, and you’ll know exactly what information is, er, was considered secret.

    You could do a lot of Googling around to compare the two sets of documents, but if you don’t want to, someone has already made the pairing for you.

    In the words of the ACLU:


    The State Department has reversed course and acknowledged that at least some of the cables can be released to the public without harming national security. That’s what we’ve been saying all along (and, according to reports, what some government officials have been saying too).

    The State Department’s response is particularly astounding because it reveals a roadmap of the government’s classification decisions. The information released by the State Department is perhaps more sensitive than the cables themselves, revealing what the government thinks the public should and should not be able to see.



    Even the staid New York Times was mildly gobsmacked:


    Of course, by redacting passages the public is free to read, the State Department has called attention to what it considers the most diplomatically touchy parts of cables. At a glance, its reasoning is not obvious.



    ACLU’s conclusion after comparing the redactions with the full texts is not pretty:


    At its most harmless, [State’s] selectivity reveals a penchant for superficially advancing national image at the cost of transparency. At its worst, it is yet another instance of the government making false claims of secrecy to avoid legal and political accountability.



    And special thanks to the ACLU for mentioning my own struggles with State; it is comforting to know they have my back.



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