from the why,-we've-always-been-at-war-with-eurasia dept
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 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:
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.”
Jack Goldsmith, a professor at Harvard Law who served as a legal counsel during the Bush administration and has written  on this question  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.