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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Comments on “Feds Say It's Classified Info To Say Who We're At War With”

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Ninja (profile) says:

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.

The Mighty Buzzard (profile) says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

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!

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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?’

vastrightwing (profile) says:

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?

DOlz (profile) says:

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.

McCrea (profile) says:

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!

Jasmine Charter (user link) says:

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

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

RubyPanther says:

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?

nasch (profile) says:

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.

Internet Zen Master (profile) says:

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?

nasch (profile) says:

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.

Joseph Mommious says:

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:


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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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?

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