Blowback, leaks, and U.S. national security
|This is a research project at Wikiversity.|
What threatens U.S. national security more: blowback from previous U.S. governmental actions inimical to the well-being of the bottom 99% in the US and internationally or the revelations of whistleblowers? This article attempts to raise these heterodox questions along side the current orthodox answers using the Broad political discourse template. This brief introduction is followed by a table summarizing selected aspects of the history of U.S. relations with other countries. The future of the U.S. and the world could be influenced by how well this analysis is conducted and translated into improvements in U.S. government policies, if needed.
Heterdox - Research - Orthodox table
|The United States (and indeed every individual and group) needs a strong, effective defense. Governments need to keep certain types of information secret, e.g., design of weapon systems, plans for current military operations that have otherwise been approved by appropriate civilian authority, military plans for contingencies explicitly authorized by civilian review, and details of active criminal investigations.
However, the U.S. government has on numerous occasions secretly organized military coups to destroy democracy in foreign countries to replace governments that expressed more concern with the well-being of their own citizens than U.S. international business interests. Have these decisions on average benefited the bottom 99% of the population in the U.S. and internationally?
Similarly, documents have been classified to prevent public access to information about experiments on the effect of radiation on human health and to block lawsuits. Release of this kind of information could engender public debate and embarrass public officials, but is it legitimate to claim that such release would cause serious damage to national security?
More specifically, what policies regarding government secrecy would most enhance national security?
There are many anecdotes:
Are these aberrations? Or is current US national security policy actually counterproductive? The present controversy suggests a need for a careful review of government secrecy and covert actions against its citizens and against foreign governments. A review of this nature was completed in 1997 by the Moynihan Commission on Government Secrecy. They concluded that
Andrew Bacevich claimed that "Eisenhower ... was the last president to work through and with the national security bureaucracy.” Every president since has distrusted the reports provided by the various intelligence services. Worse, he claims that U.S. national security practices undermine more than enhance our security.
In 1972, then-Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, wrote, "The story of the Pentagon Papers is a chronicle of suppression of vital decisions to protect the reputations and political hides of men who worked an amazingly successful scheme of deception on the American people. They were successful not because they were astute, but because the press had become a frightened, regimented, submissive instrument, fattening on favors from those in power".
National security is invoked to keep secrets about free trade negotiations. How can public disclosure of details about free trade negotiations imperil national security? Are the electorate and congress enemies of the U.S.?
Daniel Ellsberg claims there are hundreds of people in the US government today faced with a dilemma: They swore to protect and defend the constitution of the United States, and they are asked to keep secret violations of law and the constitution. If they remain silent, they could become complicit in starting an ill-advised war in Iran. If they speak out, they will likely be persecuted like Snowden, Manning and Ellsberg.
Are the problems mentioned above minor relative to the benefits the U.S. public has obtained from previous U.S. governmental actions taken in secret? Or do we have a problem with government officials suppressing vital information to protect the reputations and political hides of officials who deceive the American people?
||President Obama, Senator Feinstein and others have strongly condemned the actions of Bradley Manning, Edward Showden and WikiLeaks.|
|If part of the problem is government officials using fraudulent claims of national security to deceive the public, then a solution could include the following:
McChesney & Nichols cite other research indicating that Americans without college degrees are not nearly as informed as their counterparts in UK, Denmark and Finland, countries covered in surveys of public awareness of international and domestic hard news; see the accompanying figure.
Might deficiencies in the political literacy in the U.S. documented in the accompanying figure make it easier for unscrupulous media executives and politicians to stampede the public into an ill-advised war on essentially fraudulent grounds? If yes, this plot suggests that this problem could be ameliorated by increasing public funding for journalism. Foreign nations are now funding news broadcasts in the U.S., .e.g., RT, funded by Russia, and Al Jazeera, funded by Qatar. McChesney and Nichols note that after World War II, the U.S. forced Germany and Japan to subsidize independent news media to reduce the opportunities for demogogery. They suggest several ways that might be done in the U.S. today:
|More international comparisons of the nature, levels, and consequences of political corruption in different nations around the world. This could be compared with the level of political literacy of the population and the structure and funding of the news media, similar to those cited by McChesney and Nichols (2010, ch. 1, charts 7-8 and ch. 4, chart 1).||Taxpayers should not have to subsidize media whose biases and editorial policies offend them.|
Table of the history of U.S. relations with selected countries
The following table focuses on the history of U.S. relations with selected countries. The key question here is the extent to which critical decisions made by U.S. government officials increased or decreased the quality of life for the vast majority of people in the U.S. and the other countries. The future of the U.S. and the world could be influenced by how well this analysis is conducted and translated into improvements in U.S. government policies, if needed.
|Nation||Coup d'état||Elections||US security supplies, training & US military presence||Comments|
|Iran||1953: US president Eisenhower secretly approved the destruction of democracy, because it was "communist". The Shah ruled autocratically until deposed by the nonviolent 1979 Iranian revolution.||US support for the Shah's military and secret police||US provided chemical and biological warfare technology, weapons of mass destruction, to Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988).|
- April 17, 1947 Atomic Energy Commission memo from Colonel O.G. Haywood, Jr. to Dr. Fidler at the Oak Ridge Laboratory in Tennessee, [[w:Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments|]], https://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/radiation/dir/mstreet/commeet/meet9/brief9/tab_i/br9i2.txt .
- In 1991 Russia began implementing reforms recommended by the United States and the International Monetary Fund. By 1998 the Russian Gross Domestic Product had fallen by roughly 40 percent. Life expectancy fell by 7 years for men and 3 for women. Russian-U.S. history also includes the participation of the United States military in the [[w:Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War|]], attempting to restore the power of the Tsar after he was overthrown in 1917. A vast majority of the soviet population supported the Communists and helped them defeat the [[w:White movement|]] and its foreign allies supporting the Tsar. As of July 7, 2013, Snowden had received offers of asylum from Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. Tracking Snowden's asylum options, CNN World, July 6, 2013, http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/06/world/snowden-asylum-options/index.html The U.S. has a long history of involvement in the internal affairs of Bolivia including supporting many military coups. Recent history includes numerous allegations of U.S. support for opposition political movements in Bolivia including a secessionist movement in the Department of Santa Cruz, which includes over a third of Bolivian territory and a quarter of its population. [[w:Daniel Orgega|]], the current president of Nicaragua, was also president during the 1986 w:Iran-Contra affair, when it was established that U.S. government officials sold arms to Iran to get money to fund the [[w:Contras|]] in their war against the Nicaraguan government; at that time existing U.S. law prohibited both trade with Iran and support for the Contra war. The U.S. is widely believed to have instigated the [[w:2002 Venezuelan coup d'état attempt|]].
- Bacevich (2008, p. 89)
- “The ineptitude of the federal government is especially acute when it comes to national security ... . The national security state that evolved during World War II and through the long decades of the Cold War endangers the nation it was created to protect. It undermines rather than enhances security.” Bacevich (2008, p. 72)
- Goodman, Amy (July 4, 2013), How the Pentagon Papers Came to be Published By the Beacon Press Told by Daniel Ellsberg & Others, Democracy Now, http://www.democracynow.org/2013/7/4/how_the_pentagon_papers_came_to "The Next War", Harper's Magazine, October 2006, http://harpers.org/archive/2006/10/the-next-war/
- Bacevich (2008, p. 89)
- McChesney and Nichols (2010, pp. 51-53, 191-192, 267-268, 274, 283-284, 308)
- McChesney and Nichols (2010, p. 168 and appendix 2)
- McChesney and Nichols (2010, p. 191)
- McChesney and Nichols (2010, p. 201)