On June 25, the Central Intelligence Agency will declassify its "full 693-page file amassed on CIA's illegal activities by order of then-CIA director James Schlesinger in 1973 -- the so-called 'family jewels.'" The non-governmental research institute National Security Archive "separately obtained ...
As of May 14, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) began "blocking access 'worldwide' to YouTube, MySpace and 11 other popular Web sites on its computers and networks." General B.B.
What does it mean to be a nation at war? Is it possible to exercise democratic control over a wartime government that dismisses honest criticism as unpatriotic? What should citizens do when members of their military not only commit crimes -- as happens during every war -- but also rely on propaganda to hide mistakes and to embellish or even create victories, as happened in the cases of Army Ranger Pat Tillman and Private Jessica Lynch?
Those are big questions, but a few things are clear. One is that the secrecy, deception and constraints sought by wartime administrations are anathema to the transparency, accountability and freedom necessary to democracy. As James Madison warned, "Of all the enemies of public liberty, war is perhaps the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other." Another truism is that citizens retain the right to receive information and provide guidance to their government during wartime. The last is that, while security concerns may legitimately restrict what information can be shared when, maintaining civilian oversight of war operations helps ensure that human rights standards are upheld. Perhaps the most important effort to provide oversight of ongoing U.S. wars was the April 24 Congressional hearing on battlefield misinformation.
In March, U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan opened fire indiscriminately on civilian bystanders following a militant ambush in Jalalabad. Soldiers then destroyed photos and video taken at the scene by freelance journalists. Destroying the evidence was necessary, a military official claimed at the time, to protect "investigative integrity" and prevent "public conclusions" from being "falsely made." Yesterday, however, the U.S.
"Intimidation and harassment of the Afghan news media have come from a variety of sources," reports Pamela Constable, "including government prosecutors, police, regional militias, parliament, Islamic clerical councils and U.S.-led military forces." The Afghan parliament is considering banning "news coverage that disturbs the public or has an 'un-Islamic' theme." The measure, which is exp