Back in the days when I was active duty in the US Army, if someone had asked me what I thought of State Secrets, I’d have told them that some secrets are absolutely vital for the protection of people like myself – soldiers who may be sent into combat. If the enemy knew in advance where we were, what we were bringing, and when we were going to engage them, we’d be in deep trouble.
Part of me still feels that way, and with good reason. Our government thoughtlessly sends the military into harms way – not for the protection of democracy or to free those who are oppressed and cry out for freedom, but for political motives or the profits of campaign donors.
However, there is a dark side to “official secrets” when viewed from the perspective of a democracy. Secrets need someone to protect them, and control who has access to them. Those charged with such control automatically become much more than gate-keepers. They are a protected class separate from those they keep the secrets from. Their gate-keeper status places them above the law, no matter how fairly the law is applied to everyone else in the country. This leads to layers of secrets, because you can’t sustain a democracy while the common citizen is aware that there are non-elected people who do not answer to the laws he must obey. The gate-keepers become secrets themselves.
The existence of secrets destroys the concept of democracy. So long as a government is allowed to hoard information and prevent the people it is elected to serve from access to that information, the government is permitted to view itself as an overlord instead of a servant.
So, here is a radical idea: declassify EVERYTHING the US Government is currently hiding, disband the CIA, and withdraw all of our troops from foreign soil, airspace, and waters. Since all US Embassy buildings are considered US Territory by international treaty, putting troops in position to defend embassies and their staff would be correct. Tell us the truth about JFK’s murder, Area 51, and all the other mysteries that have given birth to conspiracy theories in the last 150 years. Then, with a clean slate, put all military interventions in international affairs to a vote – failure to get 3/4 of registered voters who are US Citizens to approve the action results in keeping the military assets at home. Period.