Why do we insist on revealing secrets?

I read this on Slapstick Politics today: “National Security Failure–Air Marshals Compromised”. It describes how air marshals are required to identify themselves in public on 3 different occasions as they enter an airport and board a plane. The air marshals are very upset about this, because they say their anonymity is all they have. “Without anonymity, we might as well wear our guns on the outside of our shirts and announce where we’re sitting,” quoting from the news story about this from the local Denver affiliate of ABC, Channel 7. They contend that with the way things are, any trained terrorist would easily be able to pick out the air marshals on a plane. “Children can identify us,” one said. I heard a news story similar to this several months ago, where air marshals said they were required to wear formal dress–suit and tie. They were not allowed to dress so as to blend in with the passengers. It’s troubling. With what’s going on, air marshals might as well be considered window dressing. They, along with the pilots, will be a terrorist cell’s first targets for elimination if and when they decide to hijack another plane. It doesn’t matter that cockpit doors are reinforced. That’s just an “arms race”, so to speak. Terrorists could still find a way to force the door open.

We’re growing complacent and soft. Would we as Americans allow this to go on without a public outcry just after 9/11? I hate to say this. I really do. We’re going to get hit in our own country by Al Qaeda again. It’s quite apparent that we’re letting down our guard. Be prepared. I’m about to let loose on several related issues. 😐

With the various national security agencies, like the NSA, and the CIA of all places, leaking information about our methods of gathering intelligence and detaining terrorist suspects, this can only help Al Qaeda in its attempts to strike at America again. They ought to be ashamed of themselves. The CIA is a joke. They did a good job in Afghanistan, and with their success I’m surprised we didn’t use the same “team” going into Iraq, but I have nothing good to say about their campaign to oust their boss–the President. There are some there who are just sissies. They think they’re being marginalized unjustifiably, so they’re trying to raise their profile, and that of the CIA, by making Bush look bad. In my opinion they’re digging the CIA’s grave and they’re helping the enemy in the process. The CIA of 40 years ago would’ve cast out these jokers with the threat of being charged with treason and executed, at the first hint that they were going to reveal secrets.

“Aren’t you concerned about abuses of power,” one might ask? I am more concerned about Al Qaeda striking again, and killing several thousand American civilians, and this time actually succeeding in disabling part of our defense apparatus, than I am about our government abusing its powers. If I had to make a choice (be warned that I am presenting an extreme case here to draw a contrast) I’d rather be at the tender mercies of my own government, than those of the Islamist fanatics. Seeing the people of the burning World Trade Center in New York City leaping from the Twin Towers to their deaths, hearing stories of people who were burned alive by the explosive jet fuel, and then seeing certain people of Middle Eastern origin celebrating this tragedy; and the beheadings of captured Americans in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, does not give me reason to equivocate on this. In America, even with the changes that have been made that liberals and some conservatives are so alarmed about, I am more likely to receive justice, or at least be treated humanely, should I be caught in a case of mistaken identity by the government, for example, than I would with the Islamists. That should be as plain as the nose on your face. We as Americans have to make this choice: Do we want to give the government the benefit of the doubt in the interest of protecting us from those who would dearly like to kill us, or are we willing to risk it with the knowledge that Al Qaeda will succeed in some cases in killing more Americans, in the interest of easing any fears that our own government will violate our civil liberties? They’ll just be violated by Al Qaeda instead.

Shortly after 9/11, after the “mourning period” was over, I remember on several occasions hearing liberal talk show hosts speak very passionately about not “giving an inch” on civil liberties to fight the War on Terror. Reggie Rivers, who at the time was a Denver talk radio host, said, probably on more than one occasion, that he’d rather cede American territory to Al Qaeda than give up any civil liberties. He said he was willing to die for liberty, as a civilian. He felt that all Americans should be willing to do the same, not change the nature of our beloved country in the face of this threat, even a little. Most Americans disagree with notions like this. Some forget that it was Jefferson who wrote, “governments are instituted among men to secure those rights….and that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” (my emphasis) Interesting how “liberty” shows up second. What some are neglecting is that many Americans felt less free after 9/11. They were worried about what terrorist attack would occur next, and whether they’d be the next victims. Due to the safety that our government provides, not only defensively in stopping further attacks, and offensively, disrupting Al Qaeda’s activities and the infrastructure that supported it or could’ve supported it, the fear gradually has worn off. We feel more free. The security measures at the airport are more of an annoyance, sometimes embarrassing, but otherwise we feel alright going out and living our lives. Paradoxically, complacency comes with this, and there’s less outrage when it’s revealed that we’re letting down our guard little by little. In fact it may feel like a relief. We can cast off our fear of terrorism. Once we lose our fear though, we stop looking at terrorism as a threat. And once that occurs, all these security measures and restrictions feel like they’re restricting us, and that the government is spying on us, and not anyone else. So we think, “Let’s take this out of the way.” Once we start doing that, we start opening the door for Al Qaeda to attack us again.

I’ll admit it’s hard for us Americans to trust our government 100% with anything. We’re instinctively suspicious of it, though we have our own policy areas over which we’re willing to let the government have almost total control. After 9/11 I put my trust in my security with the federal government, National Guard, and police. I felt I had no choice but to do so. There’s no way that someone like me is going to be able to stop a terrorist attack before it occurs. The passengers on Flight 93 tried to stop one in progress, and they succeeded, but all of them were killed in the process. I don’t mean to diminish their accomplishment. The terrorist cell in control of the plane might’ve succeeded in ramming it into the Capital building in Washington, D.C. had it not been for these brave people. I’m still waiting for them to be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. But it’s better to stop the terrorists before they carry out their plot. That’s something that government can do that most people can’t.

The federal government has proven itself effective so far in stopping further Al Qaeda attacks on our soil, and I am very thankful for that. There are some who want to play political games with our national security and it’s disgusting. National security should be off limits to political dirty tricks. We all want our country to come out of this intact, so that people can continue to wage the war of politics without killing each other. If people want to battle in the political arena, please argue defense policy, foreign policy, domestic policy, and if we can muster it please talk about how we can win, rather than how we are losing. Our troops hear this stuff, and their morale is affected. Above all, let’s give the government the benefit of the doubt if information on intelligence activities is classified. I kind of think that should be a no-brainer. There was once a time, during the first half of the 20th century, when intelligence activities were kept secret and it was understood that the national security apparatus served the President as commander in chief, once he had been given the power to go to war. Now, it seems that some in the intelligence and military community don’t take their jobs seriously. In my opinion they can’t be if they’re openly revealing information on covert activities that are related to finding the people trying to kill us. If they want to reveal it in closed session to the Intelligence or Defense committees in congress, or complain to the President in confidential messages, fine. I don’t mind problems being brought up and addressed. The dirty laundry should not be revealed to the public under any circumstances. Personally I don’t want to know about it. I don’t care if some have conspiracy theories running through their heads about the Bush Administration. They should know better than to blab secret information all over the place. The fact that this is occurring at all shows institutional incompetence.

A couple years ago it was revealed that in one of Al Qaeda’s own training manuals it tells recruits to get information on targets using the media and government documents in an open society, because the government reveals all sorts of information in public. They are so right! We even reveal how we are tracking their activities. Aren’t we nice? What a joke! Button it up, guys!


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