Friday, July 20, 2007

Senators, Secrets, and Sides: Loose Lips and Politics

The fuss over a New York Senator's request for details of the Pentagon's Iraq withdrawal plans is still in the news, and probably will be for quite a while. Senator Clinton even offered to have the troop deployment plans handed over in a secret meeting.

So far, the Pentagon hasn't cooperated.

Members of Congress playing politics with national security is nothing new. Unhappily, Members of Congress having trouble at keeping secrets is nothing new, too. Other people's secrets, anyway.

Back in the 80s, a senator from Vermont earned the title "Leaky" Leahy, and was forced to resign from his Intelligence Committee post: just because he released classified information during that little Achille Lauro misunderstanding.

Senator Rockefeller, of West Virginia, kept his family name in the forefront of public affairs when he announced the existence of a secret spy program, back in 2004 ("Lawmaker Says Mystery Spy Project 'Dangerous To National Security'," 12/9/04, AP, Katherine Pfleger Shrader). By implication, he was referring to national security of the USA.

What makes this quarrel interesting is a Pentagon aide who charged that the Senator's questions about Iraq withdrawal planning would help the enemy.

A spokesman for the senator said: "We sent a serious letter to the Secretary of Defense, and unacceptably got a political response back."

For once, I'm in agreement with something coming out of the New York Senator's office.

I do believe that this quarrel over letting a Senator get classified information is political, on both sides, at least in one sense of the word.

The New York Senator, in addition to a Congressional duty to examine information, has a reasonable interest in appearing active and concerned in national and international affairs. As a presidential candidate, she'd be foolish not to do what she can to 'look presidential.'

The Pentagon has a sort of political interest in plans for troop movement. This nation's military leaders, perhaps understandably, not only want to keep as many American soldiers from being killed as possible, but are required to maintain the existing power structure in the United States of America.

"Political" has been defined as being "of or relating to your views about social relationships involving authority or power." In this country, the "social relationships involving authority or power" involve a government which is run along the lines of a constitution which, among other things, guarantees the right to discuss matters involving national policy.

By this definition, the Pentagon's efforts to protect the United States of America and its government institutions is "political."

The Pentagon is clearly on the side of those who would prefer to keep the system we have, where people are allowed to disagree with those in power, and engage in debates without the approval of their leaders.

People involved in organizations like al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Army of Islam sincerely believe that a free and open society like ours is utterly unacceptable, and must be wiped from the face of the earth.

I'm not quite sure where some of our leaders stand, judging from their track records of releasing classified information: information that would most likely hurt the United States and help those who prefer a more orderly and culturally unified society.

Geoff Metcalf's 2005 column, Congressional Intelligence Leaks, takes a rather colorful look at Capitol Hill's leaky minds.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.