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robertogreco : matthewstoller   1

The Solution to ISIS is the First Amendment — Medium
"Somehow, though, Senators, Congressmen, and intelligence officials are not supposed to talk about those 28 pages in the 9/11 Commission report which are classified. And why not? Well because according to President Bush (and now President Obama), doing so would compromise “national security”. But what, exactly, is censorship, if it’s not a prohibition on individuals to speak about certain topics? Traditionally, First Amendment law gives the highest protection to political speech, allowing for certain restrictions on commercial speech (like false advertising). But there is no higher form of speech than political speech, and there is more important form of political speech than the exposition of wrongdoing by the government. So how is this not censorship?

It clearly is. In other words, explicit government censorship combined with propaganda helped prevent the public from having a full discussion of what 9/11 meant, and what this event implied for our government’s policies. Explicit censorship, under the guise of national security, continues today. While there are people in the U.S. government who know which Saudis financed and organized 9/11, the public at large does not. No government official can say ‘this person funded Al Qaeda in 2001, he might be funding ISIS now’, because that would reveal classified information. He or she can’t even say that to the wrong Congressman or bureaucrat that has classified clearance, because that could annoy his or her superior and cause him to lose his job. Being thrown out of the national security state, a state of 5 million people with special clearances, is painful and can, as Edward Snowden recognized, lead to banishment or lifelong imprisonment.

This is by design. As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan put it in a commission about the classification system in 1997, “It is now almost routine for American officials of unquestioned loyalty to reveal classified information as part of ongoing policy disputes—with one camp “leaking” information in support of a particular view, or to the detriment of another—or in support of settled administration policy. In the process, this degrades public service by giving a huge advantage to the least scrupulous players.” He continued, “Excessive secrecy has significant consequences for the national interest when, as a result, policymakers are not fully informed, government is not held accountable for its actions, and the public cannot engage in informed debate.”

What all this means that the reality of ISIS and what this group seeks is opaque to the public, and to policymakers not clued into the private salons where the details of secrets can be discussed. Even among those policymakers, the compartmentalized national security establishment means that no one really grasps the whole picture. The attempt to get the US into a war in Syria a year ago was similarly opaque. The public cannot make well-informed decisions about national security choices because information critical to such choices is withheld from them. It is withheld from them at the source, through the classification-censorship process, then by obfuscations in the salons and think tanks of DC and New York, and then finally through the bottleneck of the mass media itself.

This is what happened after 9/11, a lack of an informed debate due to propaganda, media control, and a special kind of censorship. Our policy on ISIS is the price for such ignorance. Polling shows Americans want something done on ISIS, but they have no confidence that what is being done will work. This is a remarkably astute way to see the situation, because foreign policy since 9/11 has been a series of geopolitical duct tape and costly disasters. Despite the layers of gauze and grime pulled over our foreign policy viewfinder, the public itself is aware that whatever we’re doing ain’t working.

Adopting a realistic policy on ISIS means a mass understanding who our allies actually are and what they want, as well as their leverage points against us and our leverage points on them. I believe Americans are ready for an adult conversation about our role in the world and the nature of the fraying American order, rather than more absurd and hollow bromides about American exceptionalism.

Until that happens, Americans will not be willing to pay any price for a foreign policy, and rightfully so. Fool me once, shame on you. And so forth.

Unwinding the classified state, and beginning the adult conversation put off for seventy years about the nature of American power, is the predicate for building a global order that can drain the swampy brutal corners of the world that allow groups like ISIS to grow and thrive. To make that unwinding happen, we need to start demanding the truth, not what ‘national security’ tells us we need to know. The Constitution does not mention the words ‘national security’, it says ‘common defense.’ And that means that Americans should be getting accurate information about what exactly we are defending."
us  9/11  saudiaarabia  firstamendment  freespeech  nationalsecurity  power  censorship  barackobama  georgewbush  government  propaganda  middleeast  saudiarabia  isis  classifiedinformation  commondefense  transparency  matthewstoller 
september 2014 by robertogreco

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