Feds Say It's Classified Info To Say Who We're At War With

from the why,-we've-always-been-at-war-with-eurasia dept

Back in May, we noted the oddity of the charges in Bradley Manning's trial, in which he was accused of aiding three different "enemies," with the last one being classified. Specifically, he was accused of aiding Al-Qaida, Al-Qaida of the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP, which is different than AQ itself) and... mystery enemy. Back at the beginning of July, the government quietly dropped the charge against the classified enemy, so that's no longer in play in that case. That said, apparently this concept of classifying who we're at war with wasn't just limited to the Manning trial. ProPublica has the ridiculous and frightening tale of finding out that the answer to the simple question of who the US is at war with, is apparently classified as well.
At a hearing in May, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., asked the Defense Department to provide him with a current list of Al Qaeda affiliates.

The Pentagon responded – but Levin’s office told ProPublica they aren’t allowed to share it. Kathleen Long, a spokeswoman for Levin, would say only that the department’s “answer included the information requested.”
The Pentagon also went on to tell ProPublica that revealing who we're actually at war with would do "serious damage to national security." The main reason? They think those groups would use the info as good publicity and allow them to recruit more. But that's ridiculous, since those groups are already being targeted by the US:
Jack Goldsmith, a professor at Harvard Law who served as a legal counsel during the Bush administration and has written [6] on this question [7] at length, told ProPublica that the Pentagon’s reasoning for keeping the affiliates secret seems weak. “If the organizations are ‘inflated’ enough to be targeted with military force, why cannot they be mentioned publicly?” Goldsmith said. He added that there is “a countervailing very important interest in the public knowing who the government is fighting against in its name."
It really goes beyond that when you think about it. This lack of transparency out of some silly fear that these groups would use it to build up their own reputation is just wacky. It leaves open such massive loopholes for abuse by the government.

Every time we talk about things like this, people trot out the same old joke: it really means that "the public" is "the enemy." That, obviously, is an exaggeration, but the level of secrecy around all of these kinds of efforts -- in the mistaken belief that letting anyone know who you're fighting and what you're doing will somehow undermine the whole campaign -- is entirely antithetical to the kind of example we should be setting around the globe. And, of course, it's doubly ironic that the very same people who are defending this lack of transparency are the ones who trot out the "if you've done nothing wrong, you've got nothing to hide." The obvious response, then, is that we should be asking exactly what our government is trying to hide, because it sure sounds like they've done a lot of things wrong.


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    Ninja (profile), Jul 29th, 2013 @ 5:39am

    The main reason? They think those groups would use the info as good publicity and allow them to recruit more.

    The way the US have behaved over the last 15 years is already doing its job in that front.

    Every time we talk about things like this, people trot out the same old joke: it really means that "the public" is "the enemy."

    Silly joke or sad truth? I'd go further and assume that in their megalomaniac paranoia everyone is the enemy, citizen or not.

     

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      rw (profile), Jul 29th, 2013 @ 6:18am

      Re:

      It has become apparent that the true enemy for them is the US citizen.

       

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        out_of_the_blue, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 8:34am

        Re: Re: @ "rw": you didn't read all, and are contradicting Mike!

        MIKE SEZ: "Every time we talk about things like this, people trot out the same old joke: it really means that "the public" is "the enemy." That, obviously, is an exaggeration,"

         

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        The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Jul 29th, 2013 @ 10:51am

        Re: Re:

        All according to the plan.

        • Enter a war with no victory condition so you never lose war powers.

        • Gain war powers to imprison anyone aiding an enemy organization without due process.

        • Classify what constitutes an enemy organization.


        You can now imprison anyone you want. For as long as you want. With zero due process. And say the reason is classified if asked.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 7:54am

      Re:

      If someone being at war with the U.S. offers them good publicity maybe that says something about the U.S.'s war policy. Maybe it says that those who are willing to stand up to the U.S.'s oppression are publicly encouraged to do so. Maybe it says that the public does not agree with the U.S.'s war policy and perhaps the public doesn't agree with its war policy because the U.S. behaves poorly.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 7:57am

        Re: Re:

        and if the citizens do not agree with the U.S.'s war policy, as suggested by the fact that being at war with someone makes the U.S. look bad and the oppressed look good, then at the very least this suggests that the U.S. is not representing the public with its war policy. Which would explain why it wants to hide its war policy, it knows the public that it's supposed to represent would not approve.

         

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        Ninja (profile), Jul 29th, 2013 @ 8:03am

        Re: Re:

        I think the enormous success from the Marshal Plan or whatever it's called helped establish that notion in the US Govt that war is good for the country. Or something. Fact is the weaponry and related industry grabs tons of money in the process.

         

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          TaCktiX (profile), Jul 29th, 2013 @ 12:44pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Correction: The Marshall Plan had nothing to do with war, it was an economic recovery plan after WWII. Granted, it could be used as a way for the US to be involved in western European policies from thence forward, but nothing about it was war-related.

           

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      Y, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 9:33am

      How about actually asking that question?

      Has anybody ever asked if the US government or congress has declared war on the public?
      Most likely that is classified too.

       

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    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Jul 29th, 2013 @ 7:01am

    sad

    Even Orwell didn't go so far as to write:

    "We've always been at war with [REDACTED]."

     

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    Pixelation, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 7:37am

    Great. Now we have secret wars too. This is just awesome! What the hell happened to our government?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 7:47am

      Re:

      They got handed a "do whatever the hell you want" card during the Bush administration. Then through a combination of not wanting to appear soft on terrorists, "power corrupts, absolute power is kind of nifty", and trusting the "experts" at various agencies to know what they need to do their jobs and trying to give it to them, the Obama administration has been disinclined to relinquish that power.

       

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        The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Jul 29th, 2013 @ 10:43am

        Re: Re:

        "...the Obama administration has been disinclined to relinquish that power."


        Yeah, and the surface of the sun is a little warm.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 7:55am

      Re:

      I'd tell you, but it's a secret.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 8:02am

      Re:

      The U.S. is like the schoolyard bully that wants to bully someone and take their lunch money in secret when no one is looking because they don't want to get caught. If you dare tell anyone ...

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 8:26am

      Re:

      Well, to be fair, the US seems to be fighting off both the Phalanx and the Shi'ar Empire. All without the citizenry knowing.

       

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    Anonymous coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 7:44am

    Aliens?

    The Roswell conspiracists should run with this.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 7:49am

    Good publicity, ehhh...

    The U.S. is at war with me. You just don't know it because it's classified.

     

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    Lowestofthekeys (profile), Jul 29th, 2013 @ 7:51am

    I would not be surprised if the "mystery enemy" turned out to be Soviets who are trying to ruin our body fluids with fluoridation.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 7:54am

    Remember the Bush Administration

    If you question your government ALQuida wins!

     

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    DannyB (profile), Jul 29th, 2013 @ 7:59am

    The Ministry of Truth

    The US has always been at war with Al Qaeda. The US has never been at war with Iraq.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 8:01am

    Treason

    You can now be charged with treason for aiding a secret enemy by accident.

     

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      R.H. (profile), Jul 29th, 2013 @ 9:27am

      Re: Treason

      This is a good point. If I'm not allowed to know who the enemy is, then how in the hell am I supposed to know not to aid them?

       

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      Danny, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 11:50am

      Re: Treason

      I logged in to say this as well.

      I have been an Obama voter and fan all along, so it is completely beyond me to understand how he has ended up in charge of this Kafkaesque government we seem to currently have.

       

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        TaCktiX (profile), Jul 29th, 2013 @ 12:46pm

        Re: Re: Treason

        Because political promises and charisma aren't worth shit compared to actions to back them up. Frankly, Obama hasn't done even a minute fraction of what he promised to do, and has more often done the complete opposite.

         

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    FM Hilton, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 8:03am

    Funny, ha ha

    "Every time we talk about things like this, people trot out the same old joke: it really means that "the public" is "the enemy."

    Only in this case it's not a joke.

    They're deadly serious.

    We are the enemy to the government.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 8:05am

      Re: Funny, ha ha

      "We are the enemy to the government."

      Be careful: you might be arrested for treason for revealing that classified information!

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 8:08am

    Secret courts, secret laws, secret wars.

    The US government has lost touch with reality. It is paranoid beyond repair.

     

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    Lurker Keith, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 8:12am

    Isn't a Secret War illegal?

    I thought Congress had to declare war, so how can there be a Secret War? Especially one a Senator doesn't know about?

    Or is "war" being redefined as "opposing groups we don't like"? Unfortunately, under that redefinition, the Public indeed does fall. ~_~'

     

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    Zakida Paul (profile), Jul 29th, 2013 @ 8:16am

    Why?

     

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    Zakida Paul (profile), Jul 29th, 2013 @ 8:16am

    Why?

     

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    Zakida Paul (profile), Jul 29th, 2013 @ 8:17am

    Why?

    Your country is at war with everyone?

     

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    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 8:17am

    Classified Allowed in a List

    I would like to see classification requirements go in a slightly different direction. Demand a list of what needs to be classified. Limit it to two pages, typed, 12 point font, double spaced document showing what is classifiable, meaning everything else isn't. Specifically exclude "It might embarrass someone".

    I know, I know, it will never happen...but!

     

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      TaCktiX (profile), Jul 29th, 2013 @ 12:48pm

      Re: Classified Allowed in a List

      Technically those lists exist, but due to the fact that "national security" is an extremely nebulous category and the prevailing notion that any bit of information could potentially be the final piece of the puzzle for an enemy people err heavily on the side of caution.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 8:31am

    Headline...

    Congress Declares War on [TBD]

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 8:45am

      Re: Headline...

      And because the enemy has yet to be determined, now all communications are potentially relevant to an investigation of that enemy justifying the collection of every piece of communications data generated everywhere. See? It makes perfect sense.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 1:43pm

        Re: Re: Headline...

        And this really started in the 80's with the War on Drugs and later morphed into the War on Terror in post 9/11. Why didn't it happen earlier? Because it didn't need to. The War on Drugs was created out of the need to find a new justification for the military industrial complex after the end of the Cold War. Since then they have constantly been looking for a new enemy. However, to the specific question, of "Who is the enemy?" a non-specific answer of "Drugs" or "Terror" sounds kind of silly and just won't fly. So, they simply say "It's classified" instead of admitting that they don't have an answer to the question.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 9:39am

      Re: Headline...

      The really bad part is when we do it again next year. And maybe GVH the year after? At least that will get the rich rioting...

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 8:32am

    So, any one could aid and abet the enemy because we can't know who the enemy is to be able to tell who not to give information to... got it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 8:34am

    We used to declare war on our enemies. Now we don't even do that, just maybe declare 'military action' against our enemies. Now we can't even tell Americans who we're at war with.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 8:45am

    i think a really important question to ask is, if the enemy is so secret as to not be able to tell anyone, then
    a) when the time comes and things are so bad, how ill people know who they have to fight?

    b) if things get so bad and people are expected to fight, this unknown enemy, is it an enemy that is worth dying for?

    i think the answer to that is going to be debatable. if we are not 'good enough to know who the enemy is', how can we 'be good enough to fight against it?'

     

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      beltorak (profile), Jul 29th, 2013 @ 8:47pm

      Re:

      when the time comes and things are so bad, how [w]ill people know who they have to fight?


      You will not be told who to fight. You will be told to trust your government, who is fighting so you don't have to.

       

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    Harold, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 8:52am

    If you want to know who we are at war with...

    Look at the OFAC list. Everyone is listed there.

     

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    vastrightwing, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 8:53am

    Citizens are the enemy

    Of course the citizens are the enemy. To be more specific, informed citizens are the enemy. When you take a look at what our government is doing like the spying program, it's objective is clear: the spying is meant for us. All the programs that have been erected can be used to fight against us.

    Our basic freedoms have all been overturned in secret courts. Education has been dummed down, we are controlled at all points of entry and exit, they want to take our only means of defense away, they've bankrupted us and shifted all our means of employement out of the country. They militarized our local police. I mean, can we get any more clues here? Oh, how about destroying our already bad health care system? Our food supply is being systematically ripped apart so now we rely on imported food from China. Then big agra is in control of the rest. Or am I paranoid? These signals mean absolutely nothing?

     

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    DOlz (profile), Jul 29th, 2013 @ 9:05am

    That works both ways

    "The Pentagon also went on to tell ProPublica that revealing who we're actually at war with would do "serious damage to national security." The main reason? They think those groups would use the info as good publicity and allow them to recruit more."

    If I was a recruiter for a terrorist organization I would use this as a recruiting tool. Hey look we're so badass the US is afraid to admit we exist.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 31st, 2013 @ 6:03am

      Re: That works both ways

      And no one could prove you weren't telling the truth, so every anti-government group would benefit from the government's unwillingness to disclose the who, what, when, where, why, and how.

       

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    davnel, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 9:27am

    Pogo said this years ago (1971):

    "We have met the enemy, and he is US."

    Problem is that this administration believes it.
    .

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 9:29am

    More transparency. BTW does anyone know how I can seal my records like Barry???

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 9:29am

    citzen safety

    Shouldn't Americans know who the C-Krit enemy is so that they next time they're at a C-Krit meeting, they don't stand up and "Hi, I'm an American", which leads to being beheaded?

     

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    Arthur (profile), Jul 29th, 2013 @ 9:49am

    Hang on!

    Isn't Congress the only government entity that is authorized by the Constitution to declare who we are "at war" with?

    Since when can just any governmental department "declare war"?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 10:07am

      Re: Hang on!

      When Congress gave up its duty to act as a balance on Executive power by passing bills that allowed the president to run so-called "police actions". Of course the fact that people refe to Korea and Vietnam as Wars shows just what really happened.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 2:18pm

      Re: Hang on!

      The Amendments 1-10 don't mean anything to them so why would anything else in the Constitution?

       

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    McCrea (profile), Jul 29th, 2013 @ 10:00am

    War, Recruitment, and Citizen Safety

    Maybe it does help recruitment. OF course if we were at war with Russia then Russian outfits might see more enlistment. It would also be a boon to American recruitment. That's how it works. Declaring war is a big deal, things will escalate, that's why you don't go that far until you really mean it. You don't go to war and pussyfoot around like you're not taking it seriously. Ah, the war in Russia? It's nothing serious, no need to worry. Have you seen the Caucaus Range, the mountains are beautiful!

    Shouldn't Americans know who the C/KRT enemy is so that they next time they're at a C/KRT meeting, they don't stand up and "Hi, I'm an American", which leads to being beheaded?

    We can only hope that some patriot stands and shouts "The Secret is coming! The Secret is coming!" before they knock on our door for whatever reason.

    ...OMG! It's the Mormon's isn't it! Of course knowing it's them will help their recruitment, they have the best marital benefits and can procreate faster than Glenn Greenwald's failings! We're doomed!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 10:17am

    Constitutionally, we're not a war with anyone because Congress hasn't declared it.

    In reality, we've always been at war with Eastasia...I mean drugs, terror, poverty, those pesky "Thinkers" always causing problems with their "Questions".

    2+2=5, just accept it.

     

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    Jasmine Charter, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 10:17am

    Let's go conspiracy...

    Well... there could be another reason why they want to classify who we are at war with.

    Being "At War" invokes certain executive powers that gives the president and executive branch FAR more power than the Constitution normally allows.

    Not to mention being "at war" with someone who can't be named ("He Who Shall Not Be Named") does give them all sorts of justification to stomp on the shredded tatters of the Constitutional rights of citizens.

    Not that they need much excuse... they have so many...

    Think of the Children
    Terrorism
    Etc

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 10:38am

    Ootb says...

    ...you didn't read all...


    Coming from you ootb, that is hypocrisy to the ultimate. You who can not be bothered with so much as reading beyond the headline before firing off your worthless diatribes and rants.

    Grow up.

    While waiting for that, have another report vote.

     

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    Wolfy, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 11:38am

    I always saw this kind of thing from rethuglican administrations. It's a sad day that the dems are now engaged in the same nasty tactics against the public.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 1:17pm

      Re:

      It's not a sad day. It's business as usual. Things that those of us who don't practice partisan politics saw years ago, while people who didn't like the party in power at the moment said it would be better when their party got in power.

      TL:DR Anyone who believes one party is better than another needs to buy a bridge from me.

       

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    RubyPanther, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 12:31pm

    Many miss the point

    While I don't think enemies should be secret, a lot of the commenters are failing to realize that the demographic of potential recruits to enemy organizations are people who already dislike the US.

    The existence of the secret says nothing about how it makes us look to the general population of Earth that we are at war with these groups. The point is that people who already don't like us are more likely to then join these groups if we tell them that these are groups causing us the most problems.

    If you get the basic point wrong, how can you hope anybody will listen to you?

     

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      nasch (profile), Jul 30th, 2013 @ 3:51pm

      Re: Many miss the point

      The point is that people who already don't like us are more likely to then join these groups if we tell them that these are groups causing us the most problems.

      You're saying there are a substantial number of people sitting around hating the US but with no idea who to join to fight against it? And that if we declassified this information they would all run out and join these groups? I don't buy it. I just don't think the US government is the primary source of information for people who hate the US government.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 1:54pm

    Pakistani ISI

     

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    Anonymous, Jul 29th, 2013 @ 2:43pm

    "That, obviously, is an exaggeration". Is it?

     

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    Internet Zen Master (profile), Jul 29th, 2013 @ 3:52pm

    About that whole publicity thing

    The government's logic (for once) is rather sound. For example:

    There are two terrorist groups: the People's Front of Judea and the Judean People's Front. Both groups claim to be the better choice to fight "the evil West", but for the most part they're just small fry compared to everybody else.

    Now if the US government announced that it was going after the People's Front of Judea and not the Judean People's Front, it would have justified the existence of the People's Front of Judea, because those "evil heathen Americans" view them as a threat instead of their rivals the JPF.

    This could (theoretically) cause members of the Judean People's Front to defect and join up the cause with the People's Front of Judea instead, uniting the more competent members into a bigger, more dangerous group, instead of keeping the two organizations divided and bickering amongst themselves while the US sat back and took them out without announcing to the rest of the world which one was more of a problem.

    The "increase recruitment if we talk about them" makes sense. But the bigger question is: who the hell was dumb enough to put that classified bit at the end of the charge against Manning? The charges of "aiding AQ and AQAP" were sufficiently damning. Did someone decide to just throw everything and kitchen sink at Manning in order to make sure something would work?

     

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      nasch (profile), Jul 30th, 2013 @ 3:53pm

      Re: About that whole publicity thing

      Now if the US government announced that it was going after the People's Front of Judea and not the Judean People's Front

      This assumes nobody in Judea would have any way of finding out who the US was fighting other than from the US government. That sounds patently ridiculous to me. It's certainly at best an unfounded assumption.

       

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    Don Messer, Jul 30th, 2013 @ 4:16am

    "classified enemies"

    That's because we aren't technically at war. Congress didn't declare war on anyone. For not being at war, we sure are sending a lot of soldiers to the butt end of the world and putting them in harm's way

     

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    Uriel-238 (profile), Jul 30th, 2013 @ 10:41am

    An alternate hypothesis:

    Maybe the US is at war with itself?

     

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    Jonathan, Jul 30th, 2013 @ 1:23pm

    When in doubt, ignore the words and watch the actions.

     

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    Joseph Mommious, Jul 30th, 2013 @ 3:06pm

    Look here:

    Funny as these comments are, they've missed the seriousness of what is going on here. I have a pretty good guess who are at war with, just check out this nugget, c/o Mr. B. Manning:

    http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/48999

    You'll notice who we are in bed with, especially since our leaders need their cooperation. However, this regime that our ruling class needs (trust me on that one) is profoundly undemocratic and antithetical to our supposed ideals. So there's the rub: we are treating all opposition to this regime as our enemy. That's what is classified.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 31st, 2013 @ 5:53am

    You're afraid that if you tell people the names of anti-government groups, they'll join them.

    Umm... WAT. Isn't that kind of a reflection of people's opinions on what the government is doing?

    Maybe instead you should, I don't know, make it legal to dissent so nutjobs don't strap themselves with explosives and walk into populated areas out of government-sponsored desperation?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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