The two editors – Dean Baquet and Bill Keller – rely heavily on the idea that government officials shouldn’t have the final say over what gets out and what remains secret. Citizens need to be able to evaluate these officials, who can’t be trusted controlling the flow of information. As Baquet and Keller put it: “They want us to protect their secrets, and they want us to trumpet their successes.” Government officials are biased toward suppressing things that make them look bad, and the press needs to bring out the full story, so that citizens can exercise the independent judgment that is crucial to democracy. But the recently revealed secrets – about the surveillance of telephone call patterns and financial transactions – were not cases of government suppressing failures. These ongoing programs were successful, and revealing the secrets impaired the operation of very significant efforts in the war on terrorism.
The operative word here being WERE as Al Qaeda figured out SWIFT a while back. If Ann thinks this is only about suppressing news about failures as in Katrina – maybe she skipped earlier portions of this op-ed:
Thirty-five years ago yesterday, in the Supreme Court ruling that stopped the government from suppressing the secret Vietnam War history called the Pentagon Papers, Justice Hugo Black wrote: “The government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of the government and inform the people.” As that sliver of judicial history reminds us, the conflict between the government’s passion for secrecy and the press’s drive to reveal is not of recent origin. This did not begin with the Bush administration, although the polarization of the electorate and the daunting challenge of terrorism have made the tension between press and government as clamorous as at any time since Justice Black wrote. Our job, especially in times like these, is to bring our readers information that will enable them to judge how well their elected leaders are fighting on their behalf, and at what price. In recent years our papers have brought you a great deal of information the White House never intended for you to know – classified secrets about the questionable intelligence that led the country to war in Iraq, about the abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, about the transfer of suspects to countries that are not squeamish about using torture, about eavesdropping without warrants. As Robert G. Kaiser, associate editor of The Washington Post, asked recently in the pages of that newspaper: “You may have been shocked by these revelations, or not at all disturbed by them, but would you have preferred not to know them at all? If a war is being waged in America’s name, shouldn’t Americans understand how it is being waged?”
George W. Bush is a lot like Nixon. Nixon wanted to suppress the fact that he was waging a war on those who he perceived to be his domestic enemies, which included Democrats as people who opposed our continued involvement in Indochina. The current debate is more about this White House’s war on American liberties and values. Ann should let us know if she is with Bush in his war on America liberties and values or if she wants to join Democrats, Republicans, and independents who still cherish what our republic has strived to be for the past 217 years.