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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  1. identicon
    RubyPanther, 29 Jul 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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