I’m not into conspiracy theories, but I do believe in transparency. I realize that every nation has information it does not wish its enemies to have. I also know leaders use that secrecy to hide corruption and illegal activities. What follows is a shortened version of an article by David Wallechinsky. What is in bold is his, followed by my understanding of why he wants the document released. The full article is linked below. While I don’t always agree with the author, I think it is important to realize that democracy is only a name if citizens do not know what their goverment is doing.
If a president claims the right to kill people at will with no due process, shouldn’t the American people at least get to hear the argument that justifies that practice?
2. The Obama Interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act
The Patriot Act opened the door to domestic spying in the U.S. One particular section (section 215) Allows the government to obtain information without having to demonstrate probable cause. The Obama administration went further by adding a secret interpretation of that section. Two Democratic Senators who saw the secret addition protested that the public was being deceived. Sen. Wyden said, “I want to deliver a warning this afternoon. When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they will be stunned and they will be angry.” No, they will be kept in the dark.
3. 30-page Summary of 9/11 Interview with Bush and Cheney
Conspiracy theorists were given a life long career when the Bush administration fought against any attempts to have an independent investigation the attacks on 9-11. Bush was finally forced into an approving an investigation, which was budgeted less than half of what was spent investigating the Bill Clinton affair. Much of that report is still secret. As a part of that investigation, Bush and Cheney were interviewed. They refused to be interviewed separately, they would not testify under oath, and they refused to allow the interview to be recorded or transcribed. The notes that were taken at that interview, for some reason remain classified.
4. Memos from President George W. Bush to the CIA Authorizing Waterboarding and other Torture Techniques
After 9-11 President Bush signed a document that authorized the CIA to used increased interrogation techniques. Even after all the scandals that followed US citizens have not been able to see what their government really authorized.
5. 1,171 CIA Documents Related to the Assassination of President Kennedy
Again, I’m not into conspiracy theories, but why are these files still classified almost 50 years later? They are scheduled to be released in 2017, but what good cause could possibly be served by the delay?
6. Volume 5 of the CIA’s History of the Bay of Pigs Fiasco
US policy toward Cuba has always been very strange. We have treated this little island like it was a giant threat. We know about the assassination attempts, the invasion, the crushing embargo that has been on Cuba for decades, but what were our leaders really thinking? Were they concerned about Cuba as a military threat, or were they afraid Cuba would succeed as an example of a non-capitalist nation in the Western Hemisphere that did not let itself be exploited by the US? Volume 5 of the CIA’s records on the Bay of Pigs is still classified. It deals with the evaluations and recommendations behind the invasion. It might tell us what our leaders were really thinking.
7. National Security Decision Directives with Classified Titles
I’m not sure why the author of the article cares about this issue. The president can classify the title of an article, but I don’t understand why taking this ability away would get us any information. A president could just use a vaguer title.
8. Major General Douglas Stone’s 700-Page Report on Prisoners Held in Afghanistan
The US has used some really questionable tactics to round up prisoners in its war on terror. This report is thought to be very critical of how the US ran prisons in Afghanistan. Some claim the report says that 2/3 of the prisoners should be released.
9. Detainee Assessment Briefs for Abdullah Tabarak and Abdurahman Khadr
Part of the Wikileaks records referred to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. It appears there are 14 prisoners whose files just disappeared. Tabarak was one of bin Laden’s bodyguards. According to the author of the article he was “mysteriously released.” If it weren’t for leaked files we would have no idea about it.
10. FBI Guidelines for Using GPS Devices to Track Suspects
Here the author is concerned that when the government tracks suspects using GPS they may or may not need a warrant. The ACLU has requested to see the guidelines but permission has yet to be granted.
11. U.S. Paper on Negotiating Position on the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas
Many critics of secrecy contend that our leaders cloak hide shady business deals by calling them state secrets. A judge has ordered President Obama to release classified documents that reveal what the US position was in the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, but he has refused to release the information.