Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Oh gosh, if you're reading the Pentagon Papers at work, you could still get in trouble 39 years after it was leaked

Unless of course, the same folks watching the leaky ports where the alleged leaker downloaded gigabytes of data are still on duty, in which case, they probably would not feel the need to fumigate your unclassified computer and unclassified mind asap, given that the original leak happened so long ago. 

1971 -- what was that even like? President Richard Nixon declared the U.S. War on Drugs and see we're still fighting that.  And the 26th Amendment to the United States Constitution, formally certified by President Richard Nixon also lowered the voting age from 21 to 18.  Cost of a gallon of gas was 40 cents. A house is 25K.  Texas Instruments released the first pocket calculator and the first Internet Chat rooms appeared.

Did you know that the first Cat Scanner was also produced by EMI that year? I had no idea!  In June that year, the New York Times also started publishing the Pentagon Papers.  Apparently, in all the intervening years that the Pentagon Papers have been in the public domain, and in public libraries and later in digital libraries, even in Amazon.com, and online -- well, the  past 39 years, the Pentagon Papers are still classified!

Via John Prados of the National Security Archive | Can Government Employees Read the Pentagon Papers? December 14, 2010

Those who have been following the wikileaks affair will have noticed the recent prominence of Dan Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971.  Ellsberg, in many respects, was a predecessor to wikileaks, and has provided insightful commentary regarding the current situation.  So what has happened to the  43 volumes that  Ellsberg leaked 39 years ago?

You might be dismayed to learn that the Pentagon Papers are still classified as TOP SECRET!

This is despite the fact that The Pentagon Papers have long been in the public domain.
The classification of the Pentagon Papers takes on an even stranger significance when one considers the federal government’s recent pronouncement that “unauthorized disclosures of classified documents (whether in print, on a blog, or on websites) do not alter the documents’ classified status or automatically result in declassification of the documents.”

This is the reason –in the case of Wikileaks– why the Government has been demanding that US government employees refrain from looking at any of these documents, even if doing so hampers their ability to fulfill their mandates.  If this standard holds true, government employees should not be allowed to read (or reference, or cite) the Pentagon papers either.

This classification policy might be more understandable if US declassification efforts were more forthright and better managed.  But the opposite is the case; the Pentagon Papers are an excellent example.  The US government continues to refuse to declassify them—and not for lack of public interest.
So today, 39 years later,  the ultra-secret negotiating material from the “diplomatic volumes” of the Pentagon Papers (which even Ellsberg refused to release) has been declassified, but the well-read 43 volumes that have been available to the public to since 1971 remain Top Secret.  The Archive continues to fight for the official declassification of the bulk of the Pentagon Papers.
Read the whole thing here.

One for the Huh? News -- but it is so vexing.  I just do not understand the rationale behind this.  Is there even one?   

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