Wednesday, April 26, 2006
No one ever keeps a secret so well as a child.
— Victor Hugo, Cosette
George Bush, in what is surely a holdover from his childhood, loves secrets. The ones he loves the best are the ones he knows and no one else knows.
As anyone who has been a child knows, the best part of having a secret no one else has, is being able to decide when to share the secret with one’s playmates and in that respect, George Bush is no different from people 50 years his junior. He loves being able to decide when and in whom to confide and as in the case of youngsters, it’s because it shows people how important the discloser is.
A concomitant of having a secret is that one has to do whatever it takes to keep the secret until the magical moment arrives in which the secret is disclosed. That may even mean lying and that is why on September 30, 2003 Mr. Bush pretended to be anxious to help Patrick Fitzgerald, the federal prosecutor investigating the leak of Valerie Plame’s name to the press, uncover the leaker. He said: “I want to know the truth. If anybody has got any information inside our administration or outside our administration, it would be helpful if they came forward with the information so we can find out whether or not these allegations are true and get on about the business.” Speaking in his agrammatical but typical style he said: “And if people have got solid information, please come forward with it. And that would be people inside the information who are the so-called anonymous sources, or people outside the information-outside the administration. And we can clarify this thing very quickly if people who have got solid evidence would come forward and speak out. And I would hope they would.”
White House press secretary, Scott McClellan went even further. He said: “If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration.”
That was a brilliant strategy. After hearing those words, no one suspected that Mr. Bush was the leaker. And when at last Mr. Bush let it be known that he had been the one to let the secret out, he had an explanation that every secret holder from age 5 up would welcome. He said: “I can decide when I’m going to tell people my secrets because they’re my secrets and I’m their owner.” Of course he didn’t use those exact words.
He said, “You’re not supposed to talk about classified information, and so I declassified the document. I thought it was important for people to get a better sense for why I was saying what I was saying in my speeches.” Now we have learned that Mr. Bush wants even more secrets and to get them he’s taking things everyone already knows and turning them into secrets that only he and his friends know.
In a process resembling “rendition” (the Bush practice of picking up people suspected of terrorist types of activities and whisking them off to far off places where they can be tortured) perfectly innocent documents that had been resting harmlessly in the National Archives in Washington accessible to all, have suddenly found themselves removed from the shelves, taken to dark places and turned into secrets where the public cannot see them.
In response to a Freedom of Information Act suit brought by the Associated Press and a nonprofit research group, the National Archives has admitted that it is taking public documents off the shelves and reclassifying them “secret.” According to Dale McFeatters of the Scripps Howard News Service, before its actions were discovered the National Archives had reclassified some 10,000 documents containing more than 55,000 pages. The reclassified information went “from information about 1948 anti-American riots in Colombia to a 1962 telegram containing a translation of a Belgrade news article about China’s nuclear capabilities.”
As exciting as all the new secrets were for Mr. Bush, there was something that added to the excitement caused by their creation. The fact that they were being created was a secret. In a process reminiscent of the requirement that librarians not tell anyone if the FBI wants to know who’s borrowed what book, the Archives kept secret the fact it was reclassifying documents. According to Mr. McFeatters, the departments of Defense and Justice, the CIA, the DIA and the Air Force were the agencies that told the Archives to keep secret its creation of secrets.
Having all these new secrets will make life for Mr. Bush as president even more exciting than it already is. There’s only one problem. To get maximum pleasure from them he’s going to have to share the secrets before he leaves the White House. Once he’s a nobody again, nobody will care about his secrets.