March 24, 2023

"The number of people with the security clearances to view classified material has expanded, perhaps exponentially, since the leak of the Pentagon Papers..."

"... and I wonder, aside from a few people like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, why haven’t there been more Dan Ellsbergs? Why aren’t there more people who, when presented with evidence of something that they find morally objectionable, disclose it?" 

The NYT asks Daniel Ellsberg (who is 91 and dying of pancreatic cancer). 

He answers: 
... As Snowden said to me and others, “Everybody I dealt with said that what we were doing was wrong. It’s unconstitutional. We’re getting information here about Americans that we shouldn’t be collecting.” The same thing was true for many of my colleagues in government who opposed the war. Of course, people are worried about the consequences. Before my case and the Obama administration’s prosecutions of whistle-blowers, they needn’t have been worried about going to jail. But apart from that, they fear losing their jobs, their careers, risking the clearances on which their jobs depend. People who have these clearances have often invested a lifetime in demonstrating that they can be entrusted to keep secrets. That trust becomes a part of your identity, which it is difficult to sacrifice, so that one loses track of a sense of higher responsibility — as a citizen, as a human being.


Lem the misspeller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Achilles said...


NotWhoIUsedtoBe said...

Says the man who defected to Russia.

Joe Smith said...

Because most people in government apparently agree with the idea of government abuse.

This should be obvious.

Like the bullshit about the '99% or hard-working men and women at the FBI.'

Even a moron shill like Hannity has had to back off of that one lately...

mccullough said...

The correct answer is because most classified information is just bullshit.

We over classify.

If the information is valuable then someone in our government will sell it. Like Snowden did.

John henry said...

Just a reminder that the pentagon papers covered only the JFK and lbj admins. Plus a little bit about prior admins.

Although nixon tried to censor the papers, he had no personal reason to. He was not in them.

And just by way of no harm, every week of the nixon administration there were fewer Americans in Vietnam than the week before until by 1973 we were down to less than one hundred

John Henry

takirks said...

LOL... Dear God, the entitled presumptions.

Lemme let all y'all in on a little secret: The vast, overwhelming majority of the stuff you have over on what we term "the high side" of the classification world? It's utterly meaningless drivel; data you'd need to have a thousand analysts to get anything out of. Case in point? The Janes Defense Review archives on SIPRNET. Classified, 'cos... On SIPRNET. Originally? All open-source data, derived from a defense news publication.

Also, because of where it was, you had to slap a "CLASSIFIED" sticker on anything you pulled out of there, and treat it as if it actually were classified. Which we did a lot of, 'cos Unca Sammy didn't spring for no "UNCLASSIFIED" Janes access for us to use doing briefings with.

You'd be surprised how much stuff there was like that. The majority of your access to those high-speed "CLASSIFIED" things were meaningless unless you went to the next step up, from SIPRNET to the actual stuff they had over in the SCIF on the "TOP SECRET" network. That's what both Snowden and Manning breached, the pair of them having mistakenly granted trust positions and "TOP SECRET" clearances. The level of clearance those two had is much higher than anything the average "SECRET" clearance sort of person has, and there are a lot fewer of them.

There's a ridiculous amount of stuff that shouldn't be classified, at all. There are also a ridiculous number of people with clearances; by policy, if you're going to be using an encrypted tactical radio, which is all of them these days, you're supposed to have at least a "SECRET" clearance.

Whole thing is a nightmare for the unit Security Managers. I'd suggest a.) doing away with the entire concept and making everything open-source, all the time. Transparency, in other words... You can't be corrupt and hide things if everyone knows what you're doing. And, aside from agent identities and the information that might give them away, I see no point to classify anything at all, on either side of the equation. Publish, and be damned...

Oh Yea said...

Also most of us who have or had clearances didn’t see any classified information that raised moral issues. Actually most of it is quite boring that would have little interest to the general public.

gilbar said...

why haven’t there been more Dan Ellsbergs?

how many (non democrats) have Gone to Prison for leaking classified docs?
how many (non democrats) are STILL in Prison for leaking classified docs?

gilbar said...

Oh and of the exponential increases in classified documents; How many of them are REALLY Boring?
I mean.. REALLY Boring

n.n said...

Obama/Biden's World War Springs (e.g. second Iraq war), certainly, and other wars without borders waged under the auspices of transnational institutions with ethical motives. The ethical conundrum is resolved through political congruence, selective constructs formulated under a secular umbrella. Morality in a universal frame has been subordinated for the sake of social progress, Green deals, demographic design, Levine's personal affirmation, redistributive change, wicked solution, etc.

mikee said...

One of the problems with being certified as elite is that it becomes more important to remain within the elite group than to behave in an elite manner.

BIII Zhang said...

How does the Mafia keep people in line?

It's a lifestyle. Most of these people know what they're doing is wrong and illegal and also that they're not only getting away with it, they're thriving - many of them are getting insanely rich. They conclude, as anybody would, that this is the way.

You get rich in the dark.

They see all their friends at work doing the same thing they're doing. Pretty soon, whacking people becomes something that's expected. It's just business. It's nothing. Oh, Tony Two Fingers turned States Evidence? Whack that guy, that's not right.

It's people who walk around the Earth not understanding how it works that baffles me. How can you not figure this stuff out?

The US federal government is a Mafia. A criminal enterprise. It violates EVERY law we ever wrote. With impunity. Knowing that it cannot be stopped because THEY are the police.

So of course, with absolute power comes absolute corruption.

Sebastian said...

"why haven’t there been more Dan Ellsbergs?

There are. Lost of them in the current regime. Now the anti-Americanism comes from the inside. Long march and all. They still leak, of course, but only if it serves specific interests.

gilbar said...

Of course, The Good News IS:
IF you're a democrat,
and IF you keep the documents in a secure place.. Like next to a used car, or in your underwear..
Then, there are NO restrictions; and you can do WHAT EVER you Want with Top Secret (or higher) data

narciso said...

They put assange and guccifer in jail, something they never did to ellsberg or really agee.

Lars Porsena said...

Remind me again what was in the Pentagon Papers? Lots of bad stuff? With out looking it up with Google, what was revealed that was classified?

Bruce Hayden said...

“And just by way of no harm, every week of the nixon administration there were fewer Americans in Vietnam than the week before until by 1973 we were down to less than one hundred”

Memories. Some fond, some not. 2S deferment from 9/68 to 6/72. Somewhat low draft number. Freshman year, everyone was panicking. Classes on getting Conscientious Objector status. Etc. This was the guys, of course - the women were fat, dumb, and happy, since they were exempt from being drafted and sent to die in a rice paddy in Vietnam. The panic was maybe heightened, since we had several hundred 18-19 year old guys living together in single sex dorms. Then, a year or so later, the lottery was instituted, and maybe 1/3 to even 1/2, could give a sigh of relief. Their draft numbers were too high. I wasn’t one of them. So had the threat of dying in that rice paddy hanging over my head the entire time I was an undergraduate. Then I graduate, get classified 1A, and waited for my draft notice to show up. It never did. I had put my life on hold, didn’t apply to grad school, etc, all for nothing. They effectively quit drafting several months after my college graduation. This wasn’t actually published.

Turns out that the MSM was lying to us the entire time. Maximum casualty rate was in 1967, followed by 1968, both when LBJ was in the WH. the casualty rate significantly dropped every year, until it disappeared about the time I graduated. Despite the media’s best efforts to portray Nixon as a war monger, he effectively fought the war strategically, instead of by attrition, which is what LBJ and SECDEF McNamarah had been doing. That was where the bulk of the casualties came from - their attempt to win the war by killing more of them, than they killed of us, because we had the higher population. In any case, by the time I graduated in 1972, Nixon’s plan had worked, and the deaths that year were quite low. I didn’t figure this out until years later. At the time, I just figured I was going to be drafted shortly after graduation. The MSM, trying to undermine Nixon, surely didn’t tell anyone.

Readering said...

I joined a law firm that represents clients in the defense industry. I was asked to work on matters involving security clearances and SCIFs. When I looked into what was involved in getting and maintaining a clearance I said, no thanks, I'll work on other stuff.

Lurker21 said...

There have been plenty of leakers lately, but they leak to support the Deep State (or whatever you want to call it), not to upend or overturn it.

There's a theory that investigative reporting never really existed -- or at least was never as significant as reporters pretended it was.

There was always someone somewhere in the bureaucracy who had personal or careerist or political (or much more rarely, idealistic) motives for leaking, and they used journalists to get what they wanted.

Leland said...

Getting a clearance is like passing your professional exams and getting a license. You work hard to get it in the first place. When you get it, you finally earn the money that pays off for the effort it took to get it. So losing it for any reason becomes unconscionable.

As for others above, yes there is over-classification. However, another problem is the ability to produce, collect, and retain information that is "classified" has become so much cheaper. That's especially true for collecting private information on people that the government shouldn't even be interested in, but if it is ok for Google, Apple, Microsoft to have that data, why not the government.

Bruce Hayden said...

I had a DOE Q clearance, apparently equivalent to Top Secret, throughout most of the 1980s. My side job was to support the OS and communications software for my employer, Sperry Univac, for all of the DOE sites west of the Mississippi. Mostly, that meant Sandia, but I visited a number of other DOE sites (Livermore, Hanford, Los Alamos, Rocky Flats, etc). I needed the Q clearance because of the possibility that I might inadvertently see classified information, which at Sandia, at the time, meant Device (nuclear weapon) Design information. Of course, if I ever saw any (I didn’t), it would have been in octal or hex. Closest I ever knowingly got to classified information was when walking by the mainframe consoles, when the red light was flashing. When anyone wanted to utilize classified information (presumably in their Device Design work), they would mount a classified removable disk drive, and run the flashing light. Which meant that we weren’t supposed to hang around the mainframe consoles while it was going on. We didn’t have a Need To Know. But we wouldn’t have hung around anyway, since the subsonics of the computer room combined with the flashing lights, gave me, and others, headaches.

Daughter turned down a job at Sandia a couple years ago, and instead took a job with a company near Boulder on the private side. Pay was good, but she was told that working inside the classified world made working outside it different, since you couldn’t put much of your experience on your unclassified resume. Besides, she really does prefer living in her native CO, than NM. Overall, much better skiing - but they skied Taos a couple weeks ago and had great powder. Don’t know if they are still doing Device Design work there, because what they were interested in was remotely detecting and measuring gasses. Which is probably to say that they don’t really need Q clearances to do the work, but since they have always required such, they may as well continue to require such. They also still require at least a Master’s Degree - my completely irrelevant MBA got me that DOE side gig so many years ago.

Oh Yea said...

Blogger gilbar said...
"Oh and of the exponential increases in classified documents; How many of them are REALLY Boring?
I mean.. REALLY Boring"

Well, it might not be boring to you if you are into things frequencies for radar warning receivers, repair procedures for stealth materials or shipping schedules for nuclear weapon components.

Tofu King said...

My opinion of Snowden has drastically changed over the last few years. I originally thought him a danger and traitor to our country. Now I consider him a patriot (origanal terms) who was trying to open our eyes to the over reach of the government into our lives. I really wish Trump had pardoned him while in office. BTW I know my personal view is not popular with lots of folks I align with politically.

Michael said...

Because the vast majority of people have greater loyalty to the organization than to the principles of the organization .

Paul said...

Well we do have a Hunter Biden that gets secret documents without need for clearance... Big Daddy keeps them around just for his edification.

TRISTRAM said...

Most classified info isn’t actually all the objectionable. That is, it is
1) Unquestionalbly (by any metric) sensitive info (weapons plans)
2) Fluff related to it (refers to it, so classified by association)
3) Overclassified (it is on a classified computer system, so classified by default, and not worth the effort o declassifying (bureaucratic inertia)

Add in that simply having a clearance doesn’t mean you can wander through classified data (you have to ALSO have a need to know), and the people who can see malicious hiding of inconvient information is limited to a small, generally ‘’’’well’’’’ chosen group of persons.

Enigma said...

Nope. The government just creates mountains of rules and documents with modest value.

A lot of classified information is A + B = C. The C output pertains to US interests so it must be kept secret. Never mind that A and B are publicly available and anyone with average skills could discover C on their own. Other classified information includes to the names and statements of people vulnerable to a foreign government. They don't want people with relatives in N. Korea, or China, or Russia, or Ukraine, etc. to be blackmailed or assassinated so they classify.

Having access to classified information merely means you might see things that are sensitive, not that you need to see them very much or have the opportunity keep secrets. It's a bureaucratic background check on your criminal history, banking history, and 'evil deeds,' and typically pretty boring.