Security and the Unaccountable Power Elite

Hillary Clinton LaughingIt seems that the FBI has found two top secret documents on Hillary Clinton’s email server. In the most fundamental sense, I don’t especially care. Our government does almost nothing but classify documents. At this point, I assume even top secret ones are nothing but embarrassing information. I’m sure that in a century historians will have a lot of fun going through them. They’re going to say, “This government really didn’t want it’s people to know what was going on!” Because that is what the vast majority of classification is all about: stopping the American people from knowing the things that their government is doing.

But the other side of this is that Clinton hasn’t exactly been a supporter of transparency. She is definitely behind the surveillance state. So it is hard to be too sympathetic to her. And there is the other issue of inequality in America. Clinton will almost certainly not be prosecuted for this. That isn’t because she’s Hillary Clinton. In fact, her being Hillary Clinton is probably the only thing that makes me hedge my bet slightly. She’s part of the power elite. She’s like David Petraeus, and we don’t go after people with actual power. There are always apologists around to explain how the law shouldn’t apply to them.

Glenn Greenwald wrote a typically excellent article about this divide, Hillary Clinton on the Sanctity of Protecting Classified Information. He mentioned a number of people who the administration moved heaven and earth to go after for the most minor of “crimes.” That includes people like Thomas Andrews Drake, who as is typical, had almost a dozen charges dumped on him, only to end up pleading to “one misdemeanor count for exceeding authorized use of a computer.”

The focus of Greenwald’s article is on Chelsea Manning. None of the documents she released were top secret. They were simply classified. And as Greenwald noted:

It goes without saying that the US government wildly overclassifies almost everything it touches, even the most benign information. As former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden said in 2010, “Everything’s secret. I mean, I got an email saying ‘Merry Christmas.’ It carried a top secret NSA classification marking.”

But Clinton wasn’t understanding of Manning’s actions. At the time she said, “I think that in an age where so much information is flying through cyberspace, we all have to be aware of the fact that some information which is sensitive, which does affect the security of individuals and relationships, deserves to be protected and we will continue to take necessary steps to do so.” But that’s the irony. When someone like Manning releases classified documents as an act of what she (and I) think is the public good, it is seen as the worst possible thing. But when someone like Clinton releases them out of incompetence or laziness, well, we all make mistakes.

Of course, the Republicans are going to have a field day with this. But that’s just partisanship. If Clinton were a Republican, Fox News would spend the day spinning it as No Big Deal. Instead, it will spend the day spinning it as the Worst Thing Ever. And maybe this scandal will hurt Clinton in the presidential election. I don’t actually think anyone but the partisans care. Most people are with me in believing that classified documents are mostly a crock. In the end, the economy will trump all.

As for me, all this shows about Clinton is that she’s something of a hypocrite, which is not news. It’s much more important in what it says about our political system. We are not, as John Adams claimed, “A government of laws, and not of men.” Who you are is far more important than what you do with regards to the judicial system.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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