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Some people say they think Bradley Manning did the right thing when he released "Collateral Murder," however they have a problem with the other 699,999 classified documents he didn't even read before he released them.

I wonder if these people ever ask why our government appears to be classifying everything except the toilet paper. 700,000 IS A BIG stack of documents and I feel certain this is the tip of the iceberg.

Are there criteria for classifying documents? What are they? I'm afraid I do not believe that all classified documents are about national security. It is more probable they are bits of information that could, would, and should embarrass the military and administration.

It has already been proven in the Bradley Manning trial that nothing he released caused harm to anyone. Therefore I think before he is made to serve any more time, we should know why the information he released was classified to begin with.

Everyday we learn of more unnecessary invasive espionage by the NSA. Until Edward Snowden "leaked" this classified information most of us had no idea of the scope of domestic spying. Unfortunately many people are terrified of America's secret documents being released to the world. We should not have programs and policies that need to be hidden from our own citizens. Secret policies, secret courts, secret trials, secret drones, secret secrets all lead to the end of a once great democracy.

I appreciate Bradley Manning releasing those "classified" documents because he has proved they didn't need to be classified in the first place. Leaks aren't the danger... Our policies are.

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Comment Preferences

  •  What ever happened to the thugs in the... (9+ / 0-)

    ...helicopter in that video, anyway?

    Were they ever prosecuted?

    I mean, surely that would be a much higher priority than prosecuting the guy who blew the whistle on them.

    Stop the NRA and the NSA
    Repeal the Patriot Act and the 2nd Amendment

    by dream weaver on Fri Aug 16, 2013 at 06:28:56 AM PDT

  •  He didn't know what was in them, but it's o.k. to (16+ / 0-)

    release them? Would you like someone to go into your home open up a safe full of documents and just release them to the world, without even knowing what's in them?

    You may say, I'm different, I'm entitled to privacy but the government isn't.

    Well, are you saying then that the US government should have no secrets from the world? Everything we do in terms of national security should be disclosed? Codes and plans, and methods, what we know about individuals who are plotting to do us harm.... We should just go on teevee every evening and disclose everything. Or everyone should be able to break into this information and disclose it? Or better yet, tell people online what the government is doing?

    You probably will say:

    you're exaggerating for effect, I didn't say we should do this... I only say it is O.K. for people to release US national security documents without even knowing what's in them.

    I can only wonder about the world you believe we live in....

    •  You certainly get the medal for creating the most (7+ / 0-)

      strawmen in one post today!  And so early in the day.

      Of course, the diarist said none of what you're accusing him/her of saying.  I suggest you go back, read the diary with some semblance of comprehension, and then come back and write a post that actually addresses what is written rather than what you seem to erroneously believe was written.  

    •  Well, in fact, our agents of government are (5+ / 0-)

      not entitled to privacy. All documents they produce are supposed to be public records.
      What I think happened is that when they embarked on Iraq somebody decided to save a lot of paper-work (like writing after-action reports) by having everything electronically recorded. But, they forgot about the public records requirement (the destruction of interrogation tapes by the FBI reminded them with a judicial decision), so they ended up with all their sins on tape and disc, protected only by the shield of secrecy and a clamp down on all communications out of the war zone. Freelance journalists were shot by snipers and the embedded reporters never got to show their stuff 'cause they'd agreed to letting everything be reviewed in exchange for being kept safe.
      Are the NSA revelations more damaging than having the electronic records and images of Iraq released? Which would you rather, a kerfuffle over the NSA or a media frenzy over gruesome evidence from Iraq and Afghanistan?
      The problem with Manning was always that he was the teeniest tip of a giant iceberg. I don't think it was a happenstance that we were thrown the NSA bone while Manning got disposed of as quickly as possible.
      Not only was the Iraq invasion shameful, but having recorded it electronically was doubly shameful. There was no question of a few bad apples. All the attrocities were able to be reviewed by the whole chain of command. Instead, people like Alexander focused on gathering any and every scrap on the resistance. And, in the end, they still had to get out.

      •  What you think happened and what happened are two (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Jerry056, Hey338Too, phenry, FG, matador

        different things.

        For example, Manning released thousands of documents that dealt with diplomatic communications.

        Here is how one official described the release of those documents:

        "Horror and disbelief that our diplomatic communications had been released and were available on public websites for the world to see," testified Dibble, principal deputy U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs

        The arrogance of many here means that they should be able to determine from the confines of their bedroom or living room what information is important and what is not. Or, better yet, release it all, because the government should have no secrets from the world.


        •  Yes, the arrogance of being a citizen (11+ / 0-)

          in what is supposedly a country with a Constitutional Democracy certainly is irritating isn't it?

          Those irritating demands for transparency, government accountability, and citizens' right to weigh in on how their government is run!

          Will it ever end?

          Leave the government alone!!!!  


          •  Yes, it is arrogant to suggest that it is (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            permissible for Manning to release 700,000 documents to the world without knowing what's in them, because you, daily kos online activist, have decided that the documents are not worth keeping secret. I didn't realize you folk have such amazing security clearances.

            By, the way, your attempt to loop every "citizen"  in your quest to deem all security document as  worthy of public exposure will not be successful, because the majority of people in this nation still believe in the concept of national security.

            So, I see what you tried to do there, but dragging people onto this extremist island, which seem to suggest that the US should have no secrets from the rest of the world will never work.


            •  I have never actually been a big supporter (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              hlsmlane, just another vet, greenbell

              of what Manning and WikiLeaks did.  Just minutes ago someone got upset with me for not agreeing to call him a hero and because I stated that I thought that his massive data dump was foolish.

              Personally, I think that Manning - and the tragedy of the life he now faces - is a product of a broken and corrupted system.  This kind of shit doesn't happen when the government is operating more within the bounds of our Constitution and our values as a democracy.

              At this point in history, we as citizens do not even know what the laws are that are supposedly driving and allowing these spying activities.  That's a breath-taking concept.  That's like taking all of the speed limit signs down on a road and replacing them with signs that say, "It's anyone's guess what the speed limit is.  Good luck not getting stopped!"

              The arrogance that is harmful right now comes from government players who have decided that they can secretly decide what's good or bad for American citizens even if it means that they have completely tossed out our Constitution with their activities.

              Now, if they had more than one example of stopping a terrorist effort over the life of the program, we might actually have a reason to debate whether or not the Constitution should be mitigated in favor of their tactics, but the truth is that they do not.

              But they did catch Governor Spitzer paying an expensive prostitute and then also even went so far as to refer the case to local authorities which was a violation of the Patriot Act which is supposed to be limited to terrorist activities, but hey, they've got to do something with their time right?

        •  Yes, and there are people who think their (5+ / 0-)

          communciations on the internet should be private.
          Nevertheless, public servants are employed by and answerable to the public.
          What most of our embassies and consulates promote, even during war time, is commerce, not human rights. If they might be embarrassed by their communications, then they ought not to make them.
          Sensitive instructions a properly delivered in person. That's why embassadors come home and the Secretary of State travels the globe.

      •  *cough* (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NedSparks, FG, just another vet, matador
        Well, in fact, our agents of government are not entitled to privacy. All documents they produce are supposed to be public records.
        I guess there was no justification for keeping Hitler out of the loop on the Manhattan Project, then.
    •  Yes, the implication for those who think (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      VClib, NedSparks, Hey338Too, phenry, FG, matador

      Manning should be pardoned is that every government employee entrusted with secrets may, as long as they are guided by their conscience, release those secrets to the world. It means the end of all secrets (for our side at least).

      •  But not for the other side. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I mean, no one here is suggesting that China shouldn't be keeping anything secret from us. That's just crazy talk.

      •  Silly conclusion (0+ / 0-)

        I'll repeat my previous comment. No one is talking about releasing all documents to the public. Nor is anyone suggesting nothing should be classified. This discussion is about whether we need to classify 44 million documents only to declassify 44% of them upon review. Should we spend 977 BILLION dollars a year to classify an endless stream of documents. No one wants to be stupid about this... we want input into the best way to solve situation like the one Bradley Manning found himself in. He saw our country doing illegal acts and the military and government decided to deny everything and 'shoot the messenger.' THIS ISSUE IS NOT BLACK AND WHITE like you and some others try to make it out to be.

    •  I AM NOT STUPID NOR AM I NAIVE (5+ / 0-)

      I have worked in DC and know there is a certain amount of information which needs to be classified for our security. However the cost for classifying government data in the US is now 977 BILLION DOLLARS a year. Over 2,000 people can classify data. In 2012 over forty-four million documents were classified... upon review 44% of those were declassified. `(stats from news.clearance
      What I am asking Mr. Sparks is, should we take a look at this issue along with the NSA, Homeland Security, etc.? Do you have a problem with a little focus being taken off Manning and Snowden and put on the secrecy epidemic?

      •  I have no issue with looking at anything, still (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        while you are examining what you feel is the over assigning of documents as "classified", your suggestion that it should be perfectly permissible for an individual like Manning to go ahead and release hundreds of thousands of documents (without knowing what's contained within those documents) is startling.

        •  Read again (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I have never advocated the release of 700,000 documents by Bradley Manning. But I think Bradley Manning's actions were the result of very poor military leadership. Would the documents have been released had the chain of command reported the war crimes Manning told them about? Would the documents been leaked if the soldiers who fired on unarmed people and killed them been reprimanded?  Would the documents have been released if Manning had been given the proper supervision for his job?  There are other questions I have about the military' treatment of Bradley Manning. Why has the UN accused the US military of torturing him as a prisoner? I cannot say for certain whether he should have released 700,000 documents because I don't know what was in them. Then again, neither did he. It was our military's judgment that he was fit to serve and the military should be responsible for his actions.

          •  Didn't you or did you not say this in your diary: (0+ / 0-)
            I appreciate Bradley Manning releasing those "classified" documents because he has proved they didn't need to be classified in the first place.
            You appreciate Bradley Manning releasing those documents, yet when it is pointed out to you that releasing those documents without knowing what's in them is reckless, you keep responding that you are not in favor of Manning releasing those documents.

            I've seen this time after time on this site, people say things and then when shown the irrationality of their statement turn around and claim they didn't say what they wrote.

            Now I suppose you'll try to argue that "appreciate" doesn't mean "in favor of". Manning didn't read the documents, but he's going to prove they did not needed to be classified in the first place by releasing them. This is the argument you're using.... If he can know things without seeing them, he would have known the government would not have taken likely to his actions....

            Oy vey.....

        •  Read what I say,not what you want (0+ / 0-)

          Mr. Sparks you have spent most of the morning mis-quoting me and others. I do not understand why you are doing this, but you either should have someone read you my comments or take a refresher course in English. Please stop disrespecting the people here who are trying to have a legitimate conversation about the classification of documents. You appear to be very intelligent so I wish, instead of being negative and demeaning you would contribute positive ideas.

      •  The issue is that who is Manning to unilaterally (0+ / 0-)

        decide that these particular 700,000 documents don't need to be classified? Without even reading them to boot. Overclassification is a problem but releasing hundreds of thousands of documents is not the way to solve it.

      •  A trillion dollars a year? I find that incredible. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dmd76, middleagedhousewife

        The link you give is a home page, not the source of that number. Extraordinary claims require at least some proof.

        I think too much is classified at present, and that a good house cleaning is needed. I am not naive about how difficult that would be.

        Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

        by Wee Mama on Fri Aug 16, 2013 at 10:13:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Individuals who are plotting to do us harm? (5+ / 0-)

      You mean NSA and Homeland Security?  The ones who hate me for my freedom?  I'm not sure anyone else on earth is actually planning to do me, personally, any harm at all.  

      •  I would like you to show me, if you can, where (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Hey338Too, phenry

        the NSA or the department of Homeland security are plotting to do you arm....

        I am waiting excitedly for this disclosure....

        •  Ooooo - it's classified (5+ / 0-)

          They're capturing my phone calls and my e-mail without my consent.  They are harassing me at airports.  They are turning local police forces into armies.  They are making attending a football game a security nightmare.  They are propagating security insanity that is making my mother who has had a valid drivers license for 75 years in the state in which she was born and lived her entire life document her existence in order to qualify for one of the G.D. secure ids. now that she wants to stop driving at the age of 92.  

          It's all gone way over the top too far and it's increasingly interfering with daily activities.

          And the real horror is that given how slowly bureaucracy gears up, it's just beginning.  They're just beginning to bring on board every stupid, crazy, overreaching idea anyone had after 911 and we need to start stopping them now.

          •  They are planting stop lights at intersections (4+ / 0-)

            to do you harm, they are searching if individuals are attempting to carry weapons onto air planes to blow these planes up (as individuals have done and attempted to do on numerous occasions) to do you harm. They are inspecting the water you drink and the food you eat to do you harm. They are trying to stop people from owning sub-machine guns that kill people in theaters to do you harm.

            This whole "government is out to get us" argument I have never associated with progressivism.

            •  I was a freshman the spring of Kent St (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Bisbonian, charlottescot, Johnny Q

              So I came of age knowing that government was not necessarily on my side.  Back then, we figured it was time for the government to stop fighting WWII and more than 40 years later they still haven't run out of wars and enemies and fear and loathing.  We are far less free than when I was 18 and we're not going in the right direction.  Well, actually we are going in the RIGHT direction right over the cliff into fascism, with bipartisan support of course.  Not like fascism is controversial like Social Security.

            •  There you go again... (0+ / 0-)

              One human being in the history of mankind has gotten on an airplane with the makings of a bomb in his shoe. He blew up nothing and yet we reacted as if this was a daily occurrence. Once in the history of the world and our lives have been changed forever. I don't know where you live Mr.Sparks. I live in Connecticut and the chances of me being killed by a falling 200 year old tree are by far greater than any risk I might suffer from a terrorist.

              •  The terrorist who attacked the US on 911 also (0+ / 0-)

                had weapons on the plane. And their event helped to kill thousands of people.

                So the fact that you were not attacked in Connecticut and  people were attacked in New York and DC and Pennsylvania means what again?

                •  Once again: out of context. (0+ / 0-)

                  I'm beginning to think you are a Democrat who just like to attack people who don't belong to their party.

                  •  It is always out of context I know. You made (0+ / 0-)

                    the point that living in Connecticut makes it much more
                    probable for you to die from a falling tree than by terrorists.

                    My point is that thousands of people were killed in New York City due to terrorism, and thousands are killed all around the world for that matter, so why should those who keep watch on terrorism care that you are more likely to die by a falling tree in Connecticut and not terrorism again?

                    I know, out of context.....

                    •  I was speaking of one shoe bomber (0+ / 0-)

                      I was not addressing the weapons carried on 9/11/01.

                      I believe American have a far great chance of dying of cancer, heart disease, respiratory diseases, strokes, accidents, Alzheimer, diabetes, Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis, Influenza and Pneumonia and suicide than from a terrorist attack. I believe statistics will back me up on that. Our government instead of reacting in a cool, calm, methodical manner to defend us from real terrorism has decided to keep scaring people and spending trillions of dollars on "secret" security measures. I hope no American is ever again killed by a terrorist attack. The reality is it will happen again  just like automobile accident and drowning and getting hit by lightning.

                      Unfortunately Mr. Sparks I do not think we will ever agree about anything but, I've enjoyed our conversation.

          •  I love conspiracy theories. (4+ / 0-)

            Everything is always proof of something, and lack of proof is the strongest proof of all.

  •  This is a gross oversimplification. (16+ / 0-)
    Are there criteria for classifying documents? What are they? I'm afraid I do not believe that all classified documents are about national security. It is more probable they are bits of information that could, would, and should embarrass the military and administration.
    Or they were honest assessments of situations in foreign countries sent by foreign service officers to the State Department which, if public, could embarrass the US and hurt our diplomatic efforts while not being evidence of any kind of wrongdoing—just one of the myriad situations in which the government has a perfectly valid reason for wanting to keep a document out of the public eye.

    Your reduction of all classification of documents to being about either "national security" or "embarrassment" is a gross oversimplification of the situation, and it ignores the realities faced by the public servants who are in our nation's foreign service.

    "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

    by JamesGG on Fri Aug 16, 2013 at 06:47:13 AM PDT

    •  I totally disagree with you. Potential (7+ / 0-)

      embarassment should quite definitely NOT be the standard for classifying documents.  The only things that kind of thinking has ever led to has been shoddy behavior, careless decisions, and more cover up to cover up the cover up.  

      •  We need to be able to speak frankly to (8+ / 0-)

        each other, within our foreign policy establishment, about our counterparties. If embarrassment were not a criteria, we'd have to never communicate in writing, within the US government, anything candid about any other country. Do I really have to explain why this would be a bad thing?

        •  We need to speak frankly to each other?!!!! (6+ / 0-)

          Ha Ha Ha.

          Considering that the very last thing the NSA intends to do is speak frankly with the American people that is actually hysterically funny.  I mean they have the whole Congress muzzled so they can't even tell us what programs they have or how much spying they are doing on you and me or how much it's costing the taxpayer, etc. to infinity and you are telling me that you are worried about our government's ability to speak frankly?    

        •  Maybe (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          greenbell, gustynpip, Bisbonian

          Maybe, we shouldn't be making those comments.

          You know, there was not that much wrong with our security before 9/11 EXCEPT that the President did not read the briefing papers (as I understand it.) Obviously NO ONE read them. Were they classified or were the people so bogged down in senseless paperwork they missed the important stuff?
          Classifying forty-four million or so documents a year it's a small wonder ANYONE knows what is going on. I may be a fool, but I cannot believe we need to spend 977 billion dollars a year to hide many things which probably should be public.

        •  Please do explain doc, because I'm much too (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          stupid to understand such things and am in desperate need of your depth of understanding to grasp such things.  

          Candid discussions about important topics between our own people would of course fall within the concept of national security.  Those conversations are not about embarrassment, but instead are about policies, issues, etc.  However, that does not mean Every conversation, every mistake, every foolish action or comment falls into that category.  

          The word embarrassment is defined as meaning unwanted attention to flaws or mishaps.  It's not defined as unwanted attention to important, critical decisions, discussions, or events.

          I don't believe we need to be so arrogant that we need to hide our countries flaws and mishaps.  If there's one thing we need to do it's to get over ourselves and acknowledge that we have them just like everyone else.  One of the most damaging things we can do is pretend to be perfect and try to hide the things that generally end up coming out in the end.

          Too bad I have to example such simple concepts to you.

      •  Let's unpack "potential embarrassment." (5+ / 0-)

        The way I see it, there are two potential sources of embarrassment in classified cables:

        A. The revelation of some kind of wrongdoing or malfeasance on the part of American foreign service officers. I agree that this should never be a reason for classifying documents and keeping them out of the eye of the global public.

        B. The revelation of American foreign service officers' acting in American interests but not engaging in any kind of wrongdoing or malfeasance, but which nevertheless could potentially damage our diplomatic relationships with foreign leaders.

        Imagine this hypothetical scenario: An American foreign service officer in Egypt, a few days prior to the start of the demonstrations that brought down the Morsi government, starts hearing rumblings about some kind of mass movement. She sends a cable to the State Department suggesting that unrest is possible, identifying who the potential leaders of that unrest could be and where the potential flashpoints are, and identifying and criticizing potential points of weakness in the Morsi regime that the leaders of the unrest could exploit.

        That's information that is very useful to the State Department not only in maintaining the safety of foreign service officers, but also in being able to prepare for whatever potential diplomatic ramifications might result from the unrest. We would say that this foreign service officer is doing a good job and doing exactly what she should be doing, in analyzing the situation and reporting to her superiors in Washington. There's no wrongdoing or malfeasance there.

        But if that information had been made public, it would have severely damaged our relations with the Morsi government (when there was such a thing) by being critical of that regime, and could also have potentially led to recriminations from the Morsi government against the potential leaders of the protest, and the Morsi government's bolstering of those points of weakness the foreign service officer identified. It would have embarrassed the US and hurt our diplomatic relations—but it would not have revealed even the slightest bit of wrongdoing or malfeasance on the part of the foreign service officer who sent that cable to Washington.

        That's just one of a number of hypothetical scenarios in which embarrassment might result from American foreign service officers doing their jobs and doing them well. I don't think our national interest would be served by saying that we could no longer classify those documents, and that American foreign service officers' assessments sent to their superiors in Washington should be made public.

        "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

        by JamesGG on Fri Aug 16, 2013 at 08:03:10 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You misunderstand (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I have never said, nor have I implied that there is no need for classifying information. The example you give is an excellent one. A process like this should be classified at least for a couple of months/years. Does it need to be put in a secret vault for the next 20 years after that time. Probably not.

          •  And yet, you suggest in this piece... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Hey338Too, middleagedhousewife

            ...that the only valid reason for classifying a document is "national security."

            In the example I provided, declassifying that document wouldn't have any direct national-security implications; our country would be no more at risk of attack if it were public than if it were kept classified. It does not reveal any malfeasance or wrongdoing on the part of American public servants. However, it would severely damage our national interest were it to be made public.

            Many documents similar to that one were among those leaked by Bradley Manning to Wikileaks, such as the example dmd76 presents below.

            They should have remained classified until such time as people who are informed and knowledgeable about the topic determined that revealing them wouldn't damage our national interest. I don't disagree that the process for making that determination needs to be refined, or that we need a better system of electing representatives to determine and execute that process.

            But reducing the only interest in that process to "national security," as you do in this piece, is a gross oversimplification.

            "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

            by JamesGG on Fri Aug 16, 2013 at 08:47:53 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  You're interpreting national security in an (0+ / 0-)

              extremely narrow way.  Of course the information described would fit within anything but the narrowest definition of national security.

            •  Not just National Security (0+ / 0-)

              Mr. "GG" I have no idea what is being classified because the Government only mentions National Security and the threats we face if document are released . People forget that the documents released by Bradley Manning were low-level secrets that hundreds of thousands had access to.  These were not tightly guarded papers like for example the Pentagon Papers that Daniel Ellsberg released.  As a result there was not much risk to US foreign policy or military actions. A lot of the concerns expressed on this list are overblown.  The U.S. could prove no deaths or serious damage from these leaks at Manning's trial.

        •  Here's an example of situation B: (0+ / 0-)

          Wikileaks cables reveal China 'ready to abandon North Korea'

          How much more difficult do sensitive talks/negotiations with foreign officials become when they know any PFC with the right clearance can reveal the content of those communications?

        •  No, your second example does not fall within (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          the definition of embarrassment.  Embarrassment has to do with others learning of our flaws and mishaps.  The second does not constitute either a flaw or a mishap.

          The word gets thrown around loosely to include any event which someone would prefer not be known about.  However, we of course would not be embarrassed, as that word is defined and properly used, about a person doing the job they're supposed to do and everyone expects them to do.  

      •  It should never be a reason to classify (0+ / 0-)


        And it is used with the most ridiculous pretext, that the people we are shooting the journalists and first responders of don't already know we are shooting their journalists and first responders.


    •  Public servants should not be keeping things (4+ / 0-)

      out of the public eye.
      If they are not prepared to be public servants, they should engage in another line of work.
      Servants hiding stuff is insubordinate.

      •  Insubordinate to whom, exactly? (4+ / 0-)

        Public servants in America don't serve the global public; they serve the American public, by serving the American public's diplomatic interests—as indicated by our election of a President, who sets American foreign policy—abroad. They are accountable for the job they do only to Americans, not to the world.

        If there were a way of releasing the content of diplomatic cables, etc. to the American public without the global public ever being able to see that content, I would agree that such content should be available to the American public. Foreign nationals have absolutely no right or interest in viewing that information.

        But only a fool would suggest that such a thing is possible, so we elect representatives who will view that content on our behalf and act in our interest. That system is broken, certainly, but the solution isn't to release all classified information that doesn't have direct national-security implications to the whole world; it's to fix the system whereby we elect people who can more capably represent our interests in dealing with our public servants.

        "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

        by JamesGG on Fri Aug 16, 2013 at 07:50:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  But that's not working (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          charlottescot, Johnny Q

          Congress has essentially muzzled itself for whatever reason - cowardice, corruption, to avoid accountability, etc.  so we have no one representing us.  That's the only reason I am supporting Manning and Snowden.  I'm not so naïve that I admire their character or even their mental stability but they are the BEST we have and that is what should scare the hell out of us.  Sure, the wholesale disclosure of diplomatic documents is a farce, but our government has become a farce.  

          •  I acknowledge that the system is broken. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            But that doesn't mean that we should trash it entirely; it means that we should work together to fix it.

            "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

            by JamesGG on Fri Aug 16, 2013 at 08:11:45 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  The roof is collapsing, patches will no longer do (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              charlottescot, Johnny Q

              We've allowed the security necessary for when there was a truly global war with existential threats back in WWII to just evolve and grow and expand with just one more agency, program, budget, to the point where how in the world would you just patch it up with reforms?  

              I think what you're hearing from some of us is that we don't believe it can be simply fixed and there is no will on the part of Congress to fix anything anyway.  It's out of control.  So what do you do?  

              The only answer around here is more and better Democrats and that isn't going to do it.  They are enmeshed with the status quo.  They appear to be either cowards or corrupt, totally paralyzed with fear of something, what, a few looney tunes in Yemen?  I mean GET A GRIP!  Just blowing up random Yemenis every time anyone criticizes the SMIC is just around the bend!

              Democracy is failing.  That's why the criminals are the ones who are informing us.  I don't really think that is a good state to be in.  But where is the will to change it?  Why are Manning and Snowden our profiles in courage?  I do think it is a total farce that this is the case.  

        •  The public. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Johnny Q

          We who pay their salaries and authorize them to act in our name.

          •  You're missing a crucial modifier. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            "The public" as a whole doesn't pay the salaries of American foreign service officers—the American public does. They should thus be accountable to the American public, and the American public only. They owe foreign nationals absolutely no explanation and absolutely no accountability.

            As I wrote in my above comment, if there were a way to release information only to the American public without any chance of its being seen by a foreign national, I'd agree that that would be a good form of accountability.

            But there is no such way, so we elect a government to look at that information and make those accountability decisions on our behalf. Is that system broken? Absolutely it is. But the solution is to fix the ways in which we elect a government to make decisions about document classification, etc. in our interests, not to scuttle the classification system entirely.

            "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

            by JamesGG on Fri Aug 16, 2013 at 08:17:00 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Exactly my point (0+ / 0-)

          Fix the system.

    •  Over-simplification (0+ / 0-)

      My diary is meant to probe the subject of over-classification. When our government, upon review in 2012 declassified 44% of the 44 million documents it has previously classified... something is not right. Of course this a great step forward, the previous year they declassified 51% of the 52 million document it classified.
      How many of the documents Bradley Manning released would have been declassified upon review?That does not make it right but I have lost confidence in our government ever since the former administration told me to buy plastic sheeting AND DUCT TAPE TO SECURE MY HOME FROM ANTHRAX.
      We, the citizens of this country ARE the government. It is a responsibility I take seriously. I don't think it is ever wrong, incorrect or unpatriotic to question our policies.

      •  I don't disagree that we need a process... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Hey338Too review classified documents and declassify them if it is no longer in the national interest to keep them classified. I also don't disagree that the government probably classifies too much information or keeps information classified too long.

        However, you suggest in this piece that the "national interest" should be tailored narrowly in terms of "national security," rather than seeing a broader sense in which our national interest also includes our maintenance of diplomatic relations with other countries and other interests that are not simply about keeping the nuclear codes secret.

        That is what I criticized as an "oversimplification" that fails to take into account the myriad situations in which our national and diplomatic interest might be served by classifying documents that do not directly implicate national security, but that could nevertheless damage our interests if made public.

        There should be a better process for determining document classification—but it should still be a systematic process, in which the people making the decisions have the information and wisdom needed to make informed decisions, and the American national interest at heart.

        A low-ranking Army intelligence analyst doesn't fit that bill, in my opinion. If we're going to suggest that every single individual who has access to classified materials is qualified to judge what materials really should be classified, then we might as well not classify anything at all.

        "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

        by JamesGG on Fri Aug 16, 2013 at 08:10:22 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You are right but the spies have destroyed your (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          system.  Of course, diplomacy clear back to Franklin and Jefferson in Paris requires some diplomatic secrecy.  But the whole works has been corrupted by the SMIC.  The SMIC is the problem.  Manning and Snowden are the canaries.

  •  It is simple cost benefit (4+ / 0-)

    If I am someone charged with deciding whether to classify a large number of documents, it will be quicker and safer for me and arguably the US if I err on the side of classification.  

    A classified document can always be declassified; the other way works less well.

    I may not have time to give each document the thorough attention it needs to truly determine if it should be classified.

    And, if I am wrong the consequences of over-classification are likely less severe.

    That is why too much stuff gets classified that shouldn't be.

    And that is also why Manning was criminally reckless.

    •  Yes, the cost is to the public, which pays for (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Horace Boothroyd III

      the servants, and the benefit is to the servants who are lazy and shiftless and keen to hide their mistakes.

    •  The consequence of over-classification (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Horace Boothroyd III, Johnny Q

      is the death of democracy.  You are not free to govern yourself if you cannot know what your government is doing.   And allowing yourself to close your eyes and ears and not want to know is to create a nation of "good Germans" not caring what our government is doing to who anywhere and increasingly everywhere in the world.  

      We have a civic duty and a moral obligation to know what our government is doing.

    •  Cost Benefit (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Horace Boothroyd III

      This is the same rational used to explain why we are monitoring 300,000,000 phones of Americans to find a handful of possible terrorists. It is like putting 300,000,000 mosquitos in my bedroom to find the one who kept me up last night buzzing my ear. Bigger is not necessarily better. Classification is costing the American taxpayer 977 Billion Dollars a year.  We have an obsession with secrecy. I'm suggesting that being off by 44% on what we classify is not acceptable.  
      The more time wasted monitoring my phone calls, e-mails, mail, etc. the more time we are not spending on stopping terrorism or securing our country. The more money and time we spend on classifying irrelevant documents ... the less time and money we spend on comprhensive  policies and measures to secure our future in this world.

  •  I think we should get rid of military courts (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Horace Boothroyd III, Hey338Too

    altogether.  For too long this practice has insulated guilty soldiers from accountability while allowing travesties like this prosecution to unfold.  We trust civilian juries to be capable of understanding the rigors of every other profession under the Sun, including ones that involve substantial risk to life and limb, and there is no reason they can't understand rules and regs of the military.

  •  Virtually ALL correspondence (7+ / 0-)

    between our embassies and Washington, or our embassies and each other, are classified. We are talking about and strategizing about foreign powers, and when we speak internally we may say many things we wouldn't want our counterparties to hear. And Manning himself decided to share all of these thoughts with the world. That was certainly not his decision to make on behalf of those of us who live in a democracy, and he had no way of knowing what damage might be caused. After all, he couldn't have possibly even read more than a tiny fraction of the documents he transmitted. That said, in my view he is a mentally disturbed individual who was unsuited for his job, and probably shouldn't have to spend his entire life in jail.

    •  I agree with your comment except the (1+ / 0-)

      part about his being mentally disturbed.

      •  I agree. One correction, though. Actually, (0+ / 0-)

        the majority of our correspondance from Embassies is Unclassified (or, the non-national security classification Limited Official Use).  These are the backbone cables which transmit administrative messages, as well as those which pass on, without comment, local news articles.

        With the Decision Points Theater, the George W. Bush Presidential Library becomes the very first Presidential Library to feature a Fiction Section.

        by Its the Supreme Court Stupid on Fri Aug 16, 2013 at 07:37:02 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  All correspondence (0+ / 0-)

      I believe Bradley Manning has said as much in his statement.
      However there is no estimate to the amount of damage being done by our government hiding behind the veil of "classified information." Is our system of communication so broken that people can no longer talk in person to discuss issues of National Security? Must everything be cabled and classified? I don't buy the fact they every conversation is a threat to National Security and must be kept from the public.

  •  I remember some years ago when (3+ / 0-)

    a memo went around telling people not to classify newspaper clippings.

    That's a secrecy system out of control

  •  asdf (7+ / 0-)
    It has already been proven in the Bradley Manning trial that nothing he released caused harm to anyone.
    No, it has not.
    The largest intelligence leak in U.S. history, disclosed by Pfc. Bradley Manning to WikiLeaks, did not lead to the deaths of any military sources, the government's first sentencing witness testified Wednesday.

    harm != death

    •  Additionally, one of the greatest (8+ / 0-)

      harms done was in the publication of the heading information.  This tells whoever is reading a cable where it was sent from and at what time it was sent.  The Russian (and, I presume, the Chinese) equivalents of the NSA record as many signals as they can from our foreign posts.  These are encrypted, but they maintain databases on these.  Their cryptographers are now able to compare the encrypted messages to decrypted versions.  With a small number of messages, this would be a drop in the ocean.  But, the larger the universe of documents they can compare, the more the pieces of the cryptographic puzzle fall into place.  

      With the Decision Points Theater, the George W. Bush Presidential Library becomes the very first Presidential Library to feature a Fiction Section.

      by Its the Supreme Court Stupid on Fri Aug 16, 2013 at 07:41:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Source (0+ / 0-)

      The US Military during testimony for the prosecution last week. Former Brigadier General Carr
      Ex-Guantanamo Chief Prosecutor Col. Morris Davis, Check Youtube
      I'm sure you are not going to like it
      former Brigadier General Carr

  •  As a former Foreign Service Officer (6+ / 0-)

    ( a large part of the trove that Manning released were State Dept. cables), I can say that yes, we have over-classification.  Not so much as you may think.  Things actually are, from my experience, accurately classified at the time of creation.  However, one thing that our classification system requires is that items be declassified by a certain date.  On that date, the item is supposed to be declassified one step (Top Secret becomes Secret; Secret becomes Classified; Classified becomes Unclassified).  The problem is that the vast majority of docs step around this.  You will see on a doc the number of the Exeuctive Order which establishes the classification regime (each President issues at least one at the beginning of his first term) a colon and a date.  Only most times, there is no date.  Instead, the writer has written OADR.  This stands for Originating Agency Determination Required.  In other words, the doc will remain classified until someone decides to declassify it.  THIS is where the greatest abuse of classification occurs, in doing an end-around automatic declassification.  Periodically, when I was at State,  word would come down from TPTB that OADR was to be sparringly used.  Such determinations would last, at best, for a few weeks.  Then, the bureaucracy would go back to what it usually does.  This is not so much a matter of keeping things from "the public".  It is more about protecting one's backside.  Therein lies the problem.

    With the Decision Points Theater, the George W. Bush Presidential Library becomes the very first Presidential Library to feature a Fiction Section.

    by Its the Supreme Court Stupid on Fri Aug 16, 2013 at 07:32:56 AM PDT

  •  They are classifying stuff (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roadbed Guy, charlottescot, Johnny Q

    I watched films on in grade school.

    Basically anything they think someone could use to learn more about how our nation operates or in most cases things that are embarrassing to the government are classified.

  •  Why can't both sides admit there are gray areas? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Manning's release of the helicopter video (if he was in fact the one who released it) was unambiguously the correct thing to do. It's not so clear that the release of the diplomatic cables was correct or defensible. However, let's consider the following:

    1) Does the good that was done by releasing the evidence of war crimes outweigh or compensate for whatever missteps were done in releasing the cables? My answer is, probably yes. If there is any sense in "balancing" one act against another, then that's how the scales would tip.

    2) Claiming that the cable documents should have remained secret is tantamount to giving the benefit of the doubt to the organization that classified them. Is that the same organization that kept a lid on the evidence of war crimes? This is not a rhetorical question. If it is the same organization (i.e., "the government"), then that organization has lost the benefit of the doubt because it covered up war crimes. If it's a different organization (i.e., the State Dept. as opposed to the military), then the answer is less clear.

    3) Please try to imagine the mindset of a young person whose efforts to bring war crimes to light were dismissed. He knew the right thing to do with respect to that issue, and he saw no action by his superiors to address the war crimes. He was trying to cope with the awful realization that the organization within which he worked was not behaving as it was supposed to. He was working for people who had proved themselves to be law-breakers.

    Discovering those crimes and then discovering that they were being ignored by those to whom he reported must have produced quite a bit of emotional stress. It would for most normal people, even people more mature than Manning. In that context, could Manning reasonably be expected to make the correct decision about the propriety of individual leaks? I submit that in that environment, it would be difficult for anybody to put the decision in proper context.

    And that brings us back to point #2, above, about whether the organization deserved the benefit of the doubt. Manning, in the thick of it all, concluded that it did not. He might have been incorrect, and in hindsight he might have showed poor judgment, but his decision was not unreasonable at the time.

    With all that said, I have become really frustrated by the fact that there is hundreds of times more discussion devoted to Manning than to the crimes he revealed. The magnitude of the war crimes is so enormous that any infraction by Manning is negligible in comparison. We should insist that the perpetrators of those crimes and the perpetrators of the cover-up be sent to prison. We should be asking our congresspeople why those individuals have not yet been put on trial.

    Those who continue to insist that Manning was rightly convicted might be correct (maybe), but they are doing us all a disservice by placing so much attention on the gnat that's sitting on the ass of the elephant.

  •  1) I just checked my hard drive (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I've got 66,000 files on the thing. Saying hypothetically (a) I'm roughly average and (b) I were working in some kind of government intelligence group it would only take 11 of me to amount to 700k.

    2) Are you going to sit down and read all 700k docs and determine which ones ought to be classified and which ones shouldn't?

    Big numbers can be deceptive.

    Non futuis apud Boston

    by kenlac on Fri Aug 16, 2013 at 09:03:50 AM PDT

  •  Please, calm down (0+ / 0-)

    Read some of the posts above, them informed ones from folks who have worked in the system. For an outsiders view, try starting here.

  •  The pertinant question should be, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    what proportion of classified documents have a legitimate reason to be classified?

    Regardless of whether Manning's actions were beneficial or harmful (or some of both) it seems evident that the government is prone to over-classification, and that the reason given for much of it is "national security", when in many cases this is not the actual reason.

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