By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 2/20/2020
Posted: 4/27/2006
Topics/Keywords: #FreedomOfSpeech #Politics #Constitution #CivilRights Page Views: 3151
This undoubtedly sounds noble and correct to the retired generation raised on the catch-phrase "Loose Lips Sink Ships". However, the Founding Fathers who cherished Freedom of Speech might think differently.
Loose Lips Sink Ships

Arizona Republican Congressman Rick Renzi has introduced an amendment into the bill authorizing intelligence programs for the coming year, that makes it illegal to leak secret information to the press. The amendment is non-binding, but urges the White House to take "firm action" against government employees (and ex-employees) who leak secrets to the press.

This undoubtedly sounds noble and correct to the retired generation raised on the catch-phrase "Loose Lips Sink Ships". However, the Founding Fathers who cherished Freedom of Speech might think differently.

That phrase was coined to keep in servicemen's consciousness that bragging to a loved one in a letter or over the phone the size of their ships, capabilities of their weapons, or where they were going could well result in an enemy agent ending up with that information—information which could then be used against the very person who originated it.

There's no doubt that the United States possesses military secrets that should be kept secret. I don't know the cruising range of the Stealth bomber, and I don't need to. If fear that it might be able to reach Beijing or Moscow or Seoul keeps the Communists from attacking us, I say, "Bravo!"

The secret Scooter Libby leaked, the one in which Valerie Plame was outed as a CIA agent, is an example of this kind of secret. Not only was it dangerous to Ms. Plame, it also rendered ineffective a perfectly intelligence good asset.

However, that secret was leaked, according to Libby under oath, under instructions from George W. Bush himself, passed via Dick Cheney. That is the White House. So who is the White House going to chastise for this? Will George W. Bush stand in front of a mirror and bitch-slap himself? Will he send Cheney out hunting alone?

The thing is, the kind of secrets that people other than Bush and Company have revealed, are the ones we ought to know about. They are cases of governmental agencies violating Federal Law or even the Constitution.

The conservative press has done its best to confuse the issue—"Liberals want to jail Bush for spying on terrorists!"—but the fact remains that Bush's spying was on Americans and it was done without easily-obtained warrants. That is what was, and is, illegal and that's what was leaked. That's why the reporter who published the story got a Pulitzer prize.

The people who have leaked the facts of President Bush's lying to the American people to support a war against a country he knew possessed no weapons of mass destruction are likewise performing a service, as are the reporters who published the stories.

Likewise, the secret of torture at Abu Ghraib, and the rendition of prisoners for purposes of torture is illegal according to United States law (which states that we will honor our international treaties, including the Geneva Convention, which we signed).

Let's for a moment consider a classic example of a secret -keeper: The child molester. This is an adult who rapes a child, then tells the child it's "their secret" and the child must never tell anyone. Usually the child is also threatened with harm if he does tell.

Does anyone imagine that keeping this secret is to the child's best interests?

Why would we then think that a politician who wants to keep a secret has our best interests at heart rather than his or her own?

A frequently overlooked fact is that we are the government. A secret that we want to keep—a true military secret, for example—is one that we wouldn't want to appear in a newspaper. And that includes reporters and editors and publishers. Even bloggers; if I did know the cruising range of the Stealth bomber, I wouldn't blog it. And not just because it should remain a secret; I wouldn't blog it because it would be boring, and none of my readers would care.

Secrets that excite people to read are ones in which people's foibles are revealed—and, especially, people's hypocrisy. I suspect that hypocrisy—at least, other people's hypocrisy—gets our juices flowing more than anything else. The reason the press published the leaks about Abu Ghraib, or the rendition of prisoners, or the lack of WMDs, is simply that when President Bush ran for office on a platform of moral superiority, capped off with claiming that Jesus personally advised him—and then was found leading a government that has brought things like torture and warrant-less wiretapping from the realm of the unthinkable down to the banal—the hypocrisy gets our attention; and the fact that the government—which represents us, thetrue government—participated in these things provokes our ire.

At a time when Karl Rove was the primary suspect in the leaking of Valerie Plame's name to the press as a CIA agent, and had confirmed he discussed that topic with a reporter at Time magazine—who was it Rove organized a fundraiser for that produced $100,000 in political contributions? None other than Rick Renzi. And this fundraiser looked an awful lot like a hefty political bribe, because Renzi, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, and Rove, a target of the Special Prosecutorís probe, should never have been associated during an intelligence investigation.

Every large organization, including the government, must adhere to a moral ground at least as high as practiced by its constituents. When there are individuals who believe they are above morality, above the law—it's inevitable that, outraged, one of their coworkers will clandestinely draw attention to the fact. This is not a bad thing, which is why we have laws protecting corporate whistleblowers from reprisals. In fact, it's the only hope we have of preventing our Republic from degenerating into a dynastic plutocracy.

Punish governmental whistleblowers? Hell, no! We should be giving them medals. They are true patriots.