Why Reveal CIA’s Dirty Secrets Now?

Brian Zick

Mark Mazetti for the NY Times asks the question, and finds a couple of answers. In an appearance Thursday where he announced that the “family jewels” would be released next week, General Hayden said it was essential for the C.I.A., an organization built on a bedrock of secrecy, to be as open as possible in order to build public trust and dispel myths surrounding its operations. The more that the agency can tell the public, he said, the less chance that misinformation among the public will “fill the vacuum.” (…) [Author James] Bamford said one cynical interpretation of the move to declassify the family jewels could be that the agency was looking to make the operations for which it has most recently been criticized seem less nefarious by contrasting them with what went on in the old days. But John E. McLaughlin, a former deputy director of central intelligence, said he saw no motive other than a genuine desire by General Hayden to deal head on with a fundamental tension: the C.I.A. is a secret organization operating in an open society. Mr. Bamford gives General Hayden credit for being more committed to openness than some of his predecessors. But he is quick to point out that by law, all classified material must eventually be declassified, warts and all. “If somebody obeys the law, you shouldn’t get a medal for it,” he said. “It’s part of his job.” Unfortnately, it's impossible to trust a guy in charge of warrantless wiretapping who possesses a hideously blatant and grotesque ignorance of the Fourth Amendment. Perhaps he realized the collossal stupidity he displayed with that argument, and he's trying to make up for it. And/or maybe he really does believe in greater transparency. But even if his motivation is terminally cynical, it is still always better for the public to have more knowledge of what the government does on behalf of the citizenry. And especially since this administration clearly doesn't feel any obligation to abide by the law, the announcement of the declassification is a pleasant surprise. Alas, that's only damning by faint praise. Now, if only Hayden were to march up to Capitol Hill and provide all the answers about the warrantless spying asked by the House and Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, he might actually start convincing doubters of his sincerity.

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