Somewhere east of the Mississippi-This reporter has learned, by the most surreptitious means, that the ACLU has taken the case of a reporter that has (purportedly) been arrested by the Secret Service and charged with knowing newly classified information-specifically the name and address of the President of the United States.
The ACLU released a report on June 21 which was sharply critical of the increasingly secretive nature of the U.S. Government with respect to the classification of documents. Nearly 16 million documents were classified last year-more than double the number in 2001. Similarly, the de-classification process has slowed to a crawl; 204 million documents were declassified in 1997, but only 28 million were declassified last year.
The ACLU is not alone in expressing their concerns about the new secrecy. The former Republican governor of New Jersey, and Chairman of the September 11th Commission Thomas Kean has expressed his concerns that the increase in document secrecy could potentially backfire. "Much of the information that is ‘classified' can actually be found in the newspapers, comic books, or even in a phonebook," said Kean. "I understand that the administration is concerned about the threat of terrorism, and rightly so-but now they've gone overboard. I've recommended against this-but the Administration has now classified even the most basic information to keep it from terrorists. The name of the President, and Vice-President, and the name and location of the President's home-as examples-are all classified now.
"I've learned through my sources that two large governmental agencies-I can't say their names, although one is a federal law enforcement agency and the other is an international intelligence agency-cannot communicate directly now, even when it comes to highly critical and timely information about the whereabouts of terrorists, the names of whom I cannot divulge, without being absolutely sure that the operatives on both ends have the correct security clearances first.
"And you can't know that unless you've already got the right security clearance."
The news of the new classifications came as a shock to most reporters. The policy was discussed by the President him/her self, at a press conference held recently. Unfortunately the date and time of that press conference had been previously classified, resulting in poor attendance.
Examples of newly classified information categories are manifold. This reporter wishes to point out the fact that power to classify documents has now been extended even to the EPA. "It's important that terrorists don't know the facts about measurements taken around the U.S. of water quality, for example," said a spokesperson for the EPA. "What if terrorists found out about water already high in lead and arsenic? They could add some of both chemicals, thus endangering a community. So as you can see, that kind of information, in the wrong hands, could cause a national tragedy. Top secret classification of that kind of information must be done in the interest of national security.
"And one of the greatest fears of our agency is that of Agro-terrorism. Just think of the ramifications of a covertly sabotaged genetically-modified corn crop-something like that could take us all unawares. Or how about this-the introduction of a foreign strain of cockroaches in to U.S. restaurants-there's another insidious idea. The ways and means by which a terrorist group could do these things have only recently, and thankfully, been classified. Too much information-that's the real enemy."