Top Secret Material Won't Stay That Way

by Tim Hartnett

Before Edward
Snowden’s name became a household word I had a weird exchange with
a guy claiming to be a Federal agent sitting at an Alexandria, Va.
bar. When asked how, exactly, US interests had been harmed by Bradley
Manning’s revelations the man replied, “If I told you I’d have
to kill you.” He was only half-kidding. The conversation moved
on before any implications could be pinned down from the odd remark.
This would be killer had a sensitive side and was soon busy being
offended by the observation that the ATF, who apparently employed
him, “were always the Rodney Dangerfields among G-Men.”

The government
is reluctant to describe specific damage to the realm resulting
from the kind of material released by Manning, Snowden and others.
But that may have more to do with meal ticket security in the national
insecurity industry than with “national security.” If
the” bad guys” already know something who’s getting hurt
when the public gets informed?

The original
video of a US
attack on a Baghdad marketplace that preceded Manning’s
full trove of documents couldn’t have damaged any vital security
interest. The victims and first hand witnesses already knew who
was gunning all those people down. The real mischief from that disclosure
was what got revealed about how the war in Iraq was being conducted
to the population stateside. What everyone saw appeared to be a
wanton massacre. The fact that two Reuters employees were killed
in it did nothing to belie that impression.

If the Manning
case is any kind of example it will probably never be clear to American’s
without clearances why they are less safe once the leakers hit send.
The first thing imperiled by these downloads is the credibility
of official PR campaigns. We are supposed to believe that government
and academia are in cahoots manufacturing a spiffy new techno-warrior
caste. Not only do they not come cheap but won’t be able to save
us if we remain overly attached to privacy, dignity or any semblance
of accurate reports describing government in action.

The constantly
expanding variety of information that gets absorbed into the gravitational
pull of a black hole classification system doesn’t give Joe Six-pack
much chance of ever wising up. The media isn’t a lot of help on
those occasions when some of the straight dope oozes onto the street
either. The story is always that something devastating has been
exposed rather than what the something is. One-per-centers in the
security industry have concentrated access to data amongst themselves
more efficiently in a few years than financial elites managed with
national wealth over several decades. These two classes of hoarders
are far from mutually exclusive. The 200 some odd miles between
Washington, D.C. and South Manhattan is the most well-worn travel
and communication path in the country.

ranks of the 4th estate aren’t bucking the trend. Some have suggested
that reporters, who run in the circles noted above, be elevated
into a further credentialed class of their own. Senator Lindsey
Graham (R, S.C.) recently ruminated: “Who is a journalist is
a question we need to ask ourselves. Is any blogger out there saying
anything-do they deserve 1st amendment protection? These are the
issues of our times.” Some among the class Graham wants to
entitle have been getting
by the government they cover as journalists. Would the
senator grant these professionals still more 1st amendment rights
than people with press cards who only receive one check for their
ink? The relationship between Wall Street, government and the media
is not exactly hostile in “our times.” Most of them appear
to share the kind of contempt for the common man that Montgomery
would approve of.

How is it
possible for an electorate that is kept in the dark and covertly
scrutinized to exert any control over their own future? Some in
the media, like Dana Millbank, think it would be disastrous if they
were ever able to. Things like Prism,
the TSA, the 1033
, US
missiles in Poland
, interfering in foreign political developments
and numerous other projects are never brought into public debate
at election times. There are rafts of government activities that
go on independently of political contests. The tiny minorities that
advocate for such things would gladly make it illegal for the unconnected
to find out about them.

If polls are
to be believed a surprisingly large minority in the country think
loyal citizens should have nothing to hide from their rulers. Sneaking
around, encrypting and minding everyone else’s business is the province
of government. The idea that political processes can be manipulated
with these kinds of powers is paranoid from this point of view.
A Justice Department lawyer called me “admirably naïve”
when I jokingly offered him a Manning/Snowden for President bumper
sticker the other day. A seasoned man of the world, apparently,
knows to trust central authority with carte blanche and provide
daily updates on personal contacts. Don’t get distracted by the
20th century or recent divulgences about the IRS.

During the
Bush years the problem, supposedly, was intelligence “stove-piping.”
“Inventing” would have been the better word. What our
spies called “intelligence” generally served as clay to
mold whatever threat the brass had ordered up. Bureaucracies will
never break themselves of that convenient habit. The glut in material
for this artistic medium provided by the technocratic stimulation
overload is creating a cloak and dagger renaissance Fouche and Metternich
never dreamed of. Life will doubtlessly imitate their art.

It is hard
to imagine a system that amasses as much information as the present
one dealing effectively with it all. The mad scientists in charge
are as overwhelmed and unable to focus as a newly pubescent boy
at the beach. Or as awkward, grasping and bloated as a drunk on
weak beer. The number of employees required pretty much guarantees
that everything “top-secret” can’t be contained indefinitely.
Our only hope is that the next cyber-geek turns on them fast enough
to avert inevitable doom.

28, 2013

Hartnett [send him mail]
was born in Alexandria, Va. He works as a contractor and sometime
bartender in Northern Va. Past columns include “What
is the Conservative Movement
” and “The Clothes Make the G-Man.”

© 2013 by Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

Republished with permission from:: Lew Rockwell