To Tell the Truth: Maybe the government would earn more of our trust if it leveled with us more and invaded our privacy less.
by Matthew Dowd
Judging by the press accounts, Washington is still buzzing over WikiLeaks’ release of classified U.S. government information, with both Republicans and Democrats expressing outrage over the disclosures. Meanwhile, many media outlets seem to be practically mute on the subject, avoiding comment on whether WikiLeaks provided a public service or disservice.
Let me offer one man’s perspective on the controversy, from an apartment in Austin, Texas.
As I was sitting with my three grown sons over the post-Thanksgiving weekend watching football at their place (where they have lived together for nearly a year without a major fight, the place burning down, or the police showing up), my oldest son, who served in the Army for five years and was deployed in Iraq for nearly a year and half, turned to me and asked, “When as a country did we become a place where the government gets upset when its secrets are revealed but has no problem knowing all our secrets and invading our privacy?”
Hmm, interesting question.
In Washington’s polarized political environment, Republicans and Democrats seem to agree on a few things: That the government, in the name of fighting terrorism, has the right to listen in on all of our phone conversations and read our e-mails, even if it has no compelling reason for doing so. That the government can use machines at the airport that basically conduct the equivalent of strip searches of every passenger. That the government, for as long as it wants, can withhold any information from the public that it decides is in the national interest and is classified. And that when someone reveals this information, they are reviled on all sides, with the press corps staying silent.
When did we decide that revealing the truth about the government is wrong?I recall during the Clinton administration when Republicans expressed outrage over a White House health care task force holding “secret” meetings and not releasing the names of attendees or the topics of discussion. And then not many years later, Democrats expressing similar outrage at the Bush administration’s secrecy when it held private meetings related to energy policy. Now both sides have gotten together to attack WikiLeaks over the opposite situation: They are criticizing the Internet watchdog for openly releasing information related to how our government conducts foreign policy.
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