Secrets and Lies

I argued earlier that good intelligence requires more dissemination of information. But the CIA and other agencies are classifying more documents than in the past. The purpose it seems is often to cover up for mistakes or even to censor things that the authorites simply don’t like rather than to hinder terrorists.

Remember those aluminium tubes supposedly intended for use in Iraq’s secret weapons program? A Senate report on prewar intelligence quoted the CIA as saying “their willingness to pay such costs suggests the tubes are intended for a special project of national interest.” The CIA, however, classified how much the Iraqi’s paid as secret, deleting the number. How much did the Iraqi’s actually pay? About $17.50 a piece.

A possible solution to this problem is to create an independent board. Surprise, we have one already! According to J. William Leonard, director of the National Archives’ Information Security Oversight Office, “a 2000 law created a public interest declassification board to recommend release of secrets in important cases, but the president and Congress never appointed members.”


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