Tea Time With Jesse

Six of One, Half Dozen the Other

A Secret Coincidence

Posted by middlerage on July 20, 2010

Many, many years ago I was a lad who had a father working in a top secret sector of our national defense. His group would subscribe to several pertinent publications, stick a roster on the front of each month’s issue, and circulate the mag. Instead of having your own expensive subscription, you could just read the group’s subscription, then cross your name off the roster stuck on front and pass Defense Week (or whatever) on to the next person. Sometimes dad would bring these mags home and I would leaf through them, though 99% of the subject matter was over my head. One article I remember was an opinion piece by a defense analyst that remarked on how out-of-control national secrets had become. Not what the secrets were, but how many there are. Too many. Unnecessary classification of every little non-worthy thing. And secrets cost money – to classify, to store, to protect. Fast forward 30 years and currently my nightstand is holding Nation of Secrets By Ted Gup, a 2009 book all about the massive proliferation of secrets (especially post 9/11), and the toll it is taking on our democracy. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Purely by coincidence, just this week, the Washington Post has released a two-year-in-the-making, massive, in-depth report on the bureaucracy and burdensome cost of our new, big-brotherish, anti-terrorism nation. The report is entitled Top Secret America (<- linked here).

I have not yet read the WaPo report, and I am only half way through Gup’s book. The book is slow going – sort of a combination of eat-your-veggies-I-know-they’re-good-for-me-but-I-don’t-wanna, and an odd writing style that isn’t engaging me.

If there is a take home message I can give my readers right now, it’s just that (while a few, vital secrets are important to any state) rampant secrecy damages our vital, constitutional democracy. When we don’t know what our government is doing, we have lost all power. We’ve gone from government By the People, For the People, and Of the People to government By Secrecy Cleared Bureaucrats, For Other Secrecy Cleared Bureaucrats, and Of the Peasants Who Need to Shut Up, Practice Consumerism, and Leave Government to the Big Boys.

The nice thing about reading well researched books, is the authors have often found quotable quotes, there for the picking. I will end with a few, all credit to the research of author Ted Gup:

I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. – James Madison

They held their consultations always under a veil of secrecy; they had the sole transaction of affairs with foreign nations; through the whole course of the war they had the fate of their country more in their hands than is to be hoped will ever be the case with our future representatives. – James Madison on the Congress during the Revolutionary War

The liberties of the people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them…To cover with the veil of secrecy the common routine of business, is an abomination in the eyes of every intelligent man, and every friend to his country. – Patrick Henry on the secret formulation of the consitution

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