Article Image
IPFS News Link • Government

Federal Censorship Protects Leviathan's Crimes

•, by James Bovard

The number of secret federal documents skyrocketed, and any information that was classified supposedly cannot be exposed without dooming the nation.

Politicians and federal agencies recognize that "what people don't know won't hurt the government." James Madison, the father of the Constitution, declared in 1798 that "the right of freely examining public characters and measures, and of free communication among the people thereon … has ever been justly deemed, the only effectual guardian of every other right." But this right has faded badly in recent decades. During the 2020 Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer warned that if the Senate did not vote to hear witnesses, "this country is headed towards the greatest cover-up since Watergate."

Actually, "conventional wisdom" in the nation's capital is often the result of cover-ups, ignorance, and servility. Daniel Ellsberg, who risked life in prison to leak the Pentagon Papers, observed in 2002, "It is a commonplace that 'you can't keep secrets in Washington' or 'in a democracy.' … These truisms are flatly false…. The overwhelming majority of secrets do not leak to the American public."

Since the 1990s, the number of documents classified annually by federal agencies increased more than tenfold. In 2004, Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn.) derided the federal classification system as "incomprehensibly complex" and "so bloated it often does not distinguish between the critically important and the comically irrelevant." The New York Times reported in 2005 that federal agencies were "classifying documents at the rate of 125 a minute as they create new categories of semi-secrets bearing vague labels like 'sensitive security information.'"