Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The enormity of the Afghan leaks -- and the limits of secrecy

I'd heard different figures bandied about -- 92,000 documents, 95,000 -- this updated story on the Chicago Tribune website refers to "more than 76,000 reports published by WikiLeaks, many of them brief and routine."

Gosh that's a lot of paper.

The linked Tribune story reports that an Army PFC is suspected of forwarding the documents to WikiLeaks.

You have to wonder, though, how secret things really are when privates have access.

And that's just the first clue that something's wrong with the secrecy classification on all these materials.

This analysis from the Los Angeles Times (the link is to the Chicago Tribune site, however) talks about how the documents detail the extensive cooperation between Pakistani security forces and the Taliban. Pardon me while I try, unsuccessfully, to feign surprise.

Pakistan has long sought to be (at least) the predominant foreign influence in Afghanistan. I am dismayed to read of apparent confirmation of long-standing rumors that some Pakistani security agents helped Taliban forces plan and execute attacks on Western forces including, necessarily, Americans. But it's not something really new.

If I've been reading about these issues on line and in newspapers and newsmagazines long before this "leak" -- not top secret documents, mind you, and I have no security clearance whatsoever -- how secret is it?

How secret should it be?

It seems our government has a mania for secrecy in an age where secrets are harder to keep than ever. This is neither a Democratic failing nor a Republican one -- it is a statist reflex, apparently.

The funny thing is that secrets have always been hard to keep. As Ben Franklin said, long, long ago: Two people can keep a secret -- if one of them is dead.


Barb said...

I agree with Mr. Franklin. :)

Robert Lee said...

I was just thinking about the conspiracies circulating on the web and how it is the secrecy of governments which creates so much speculation amongst ordinary citizens about what is really going on - We all want to know the truth its part of our nature, and because of this governments and shadowy organisations find themselves at the center of conspiracy theories simply because they are so darn secretive!