Government Secrecy


Hello all! Priscilla here. Today’s topic is government secrecy. In a secrets-driven nation that spent $43.5 billion on intelligence in 2007, and spent $9.5 billion creating and maintaining classified documents and determining who had the clearances to see them, the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer is a timely reminder of how secrecy can be easily wielded to violate the rights of individuals. How many of you are familiar with the fact that during Robert Oppenheimer’s security revocation hearing in 1954, his lawyer was frequently barred from the hearing room because he didn’t have the proper “security clearance” to hear the testimony being given against Oppenheimer? A real defense of Oppenheimer was impossible to mount under those conditions, just as a real defense is impossible to mount for the inmates of Guantanamo today. Robert Oppenheimer’s security revocation hearing was a prime example of how the constitutional rights of the individual are trampled by the “requirements” of government secrecy. Or take the example of Dr. James E. Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and a world leader on the growing dangers of global warming. He was directed to submit his lectures, papers, and postings on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from journalists to the agency’s public affairs staff for prior review. The reason given was the “need for coordination.” Fortunately, Dr. Hansen, like Dr. Oppenheimer, refuses to be censored. Read about Oppenheimer’s hearing in The Ruin of J. Robert Oppenheimer, and let me know how you think it relates to today’s governmental secrecy issues.


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