Monday, November 29, 2010

Further Comment on PJM, Michael Totten »
This is How You Stop Terrorists

Michael Totten » This is How You Stop Terrorists

If you do not know about explosives and serious weapons caught by TSA then the fault is with your information providers. Not that any of us would question their competence or impartiality. If the information is not made publicly available then that could be for good reasons that can be addressed by the elected representatives who set policy. My suspicion is that intercepts of explosives or initial contact with a person of interest that is later used to build a case may be released to the public record in a court proceeding but that both the libertarians and the socialists have no interest in disseminating that information.

No law enforcement or domestic security agency can be expected to both observe all constitutional restrictions and preempt criminal activity. The best that they can do is track down the bad guys after, "Remember, when seconds count the police are only minutes away", fill out the reports and maybe get to penetrate a bad guy cell by offering bait. The US Secret Service got to be more aggressive after 1963 in finding bad guys before they act. Most people accepted that and whistled by it without looking to close. Similarly nuclear security was also kept quiet to enable it to be more proactive.

We are now cautiously expanding the role of law enforcement but are in fact being, or at least were under the much criticized Bush administration, very careful about not abusing the powers that are needed in theory. For all of the screaming about the Patriot Act how many librarians were emotionally raped by government goons rifling through the town's card files to see who reads back issues of The Nation? The answer of course was zero.

What some of the criticisms boil down to are demands to know everything that those entrusted with government know. That is not a necessary component of a democracy. The fact is that you are not entitled to know everything that is classified for valid purposes. These can include law enforcement and military operations, diplomatic communications and confidential personal records. Hillary Clinton, whatever her infinite faults, read a good statement about that today. If you think that you are entitled to know everything then your friend is Julian Assange but he may be to busy to take your calls right now.

Obviously the tendency of any bureaucracy to control information to conceal abuse and incompetence must be fought. Should the true facts behind routine local government operations, such as how a road got routed and where every every dime went, get fully and publicly revealed? Yes it should, and when local zoning commissioners try to hide behind the screens I am defending they need to be prosecuted. That is not just for their pecuniary misdeeds but also for imposing on weightier matters. That vice afflicts every organization but it is especially virulent in government.

It is proper to raise questions as to the cost, effectiveness or abuse of procedures. It is important that elected representatives vigorously investigate government operations. The maintenance of an educated liberty loving culture that produces agents and managers as well as legislative and judicial overseers with the sophistication and wisdom to handle their responsibilities in a temperate manner is essential.

Genuine security matters are classified for good reason, whether anyone likes that or not. Properly classified information should not be revealed and demanding to know why you aren't told more is not good enough. Maybe more can and should be disclosed but the way to get that answered is through elected office holders, not by advocating disrupting screening operations. What does not happen and will not happen is the satisfaction of the desire of any individual who wants to walk into the briefing room and say "What have you got?" Our host is a journalist. He knows that there are stories that need to get out. He knows that there is information concealed for many reasons both good and bad. He knows that some of those who restrict access do so for selfish reasons and most are sincere about their responsibilities. He knows that it isn't just a matter of saying "Why if it exists can't I read everything in Wiki or find it with Google?"

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