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Works and Days

The Scandal of Our Age

June 17th, 2012 - 10:05 pm

Cui Bono?

But outrage was not the intent of Sanger, nor of any of the other “reporters” who have been given exclusive access to either Obama administration insiders or once sort of, now kind of, classified materials. When one reads David Ignatius on the covert bin Laden raid, here are the sort of inanities that pop out: “This desire to reattach al-Qaeda to the Muslim mainstream is evident in the documents I reviewed that were taken from bin Laden’s compound the night he was killed. … As Wednesday’s anniversary of bin Laden’s death approaches, I have been going back over my notes of these messages. I found some unpublished passages that show how bin Laden’s legacy is an ironic mix.” Or “The scheme is described in one of the documents taken from bin Laden’s compound by U.S. forces on May 2, the night he was killed. I was given an exclusive look at some of these remarkable documents by a senior administration official. They have been declassified and will be available soon to the public in their original Arabic texts and translations.”

How does one seriously claim an “exclusive look” at “remarkable documents” that have been “declassified” and “will be available soon.”  (Note the tense gymnastics.) Either a document is in the public domain for all, or it is not. One does not have an “exclusive” look at otherwise common knowledge. This is incoherent: “A senior administration official” calls up a senior Washington Post reporter to provide him with an “exclusive” look at unclassified documents in the public domain. Why would a “senior” official have to remain unnamed when all he was doing was passing along unclassified information?

What Next?

What should we expect next from the administration rather pleased at these disclosures? More of  “how dare you!” denials from Barack Obama who is “shocked” that we might possibly conclude that he runs the defense of the United States like a poorly managed Tony Rezko land deal.

Expect the New York Times and Washington Post stable to likewise be aghast at any hint they were massaged, and in vain to point to all sorts of nuanced little qualifiers in their stories that we missed, but that really do prove their own independence and “worry,” “skepticism,” and “concern” over some of the shocking things they wrote.

“Classified” is now a postmodern idea, as we see from Ignatius. I think the damage-control procedure will go like this: although we, the public, could not read what the New York Times and Washington Post people read, these “classified” sources were still not really classified. You see, the president decides from moment to moment what is legally classified, what not. When given to a reporter to ensure the public knows that an Achilles rather than a Paris is our commander in chief, the documents in a nanosecond became declassified. In other words, once these leaks go into print, then immediately postfacto all such information was declassified all along: stupid us, we just never asked to read it or talk with these folks who had.

If — a big if — and when either Congress or the media goes after the damage that was done to U.S. interests, expect that almost every subpoenaed source imaginable is now “classified” — as in “How dare you ask for classified information that might endanger the national security just to find out how and why we released ‘declassified’ information that did no harm at all.”

Reader, forget politics. Just digest the nature, theme, the timing, and the damage of these disclosures. Do that and most of you will conclude they are offenses to the security of the United States — or, in the words of Barack Obama on another matter, “unpatriotic.”

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