One of the more curious things about the Taguba report is the fact that it was classified in the first place. The executive order deliniating what can and can't be classified states, "In no case shall information be classified in order to... conceal violations of law." In a bit of a double negative, it adds that classification can not be used "to prevent or delay the release of information that does not require protection in the interest of the national security." Em, and why again was the report stamped secret?
The Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), a little-known government agency charged with overseeing the process and that has the power to overturn classifications, is currently investigating and is apparently going to come out with a ruling next week. I'm not sure how the office will come down, but I have a guess: I spoke with its director last week, Bill Leonard, and he is, shall we say, less than thrilled with the Bush administration's classification habits, especially in the case of the Taguba report.
"I truly have concerns based on what I've seen over the past several months," said Leonard. He says that when he has occasionally raised his eyebrows at one classification or another, "People have said to me, 'Don't you know there's a war on?' "
Leonard adds that the tsunami of recent leaks has been caused at least in part by the overzealous classification itself: Over-classification eventually reaches a tipping point, he says, where even people involved in the process no longer think it's just or fair and act accordingly. "I see a direct cause-and-effect. What ultimately protects the classification process is people's confidence in it. And there have been many actions by agencies that can be interpreted as undermining the process. Or as the Federation of American Scientists' Steve Aftergood , told me, "I think the classification system has entered the advanced stage of decadence." (Note: Aftergood is an invaluable resource, a nice guy, and provided most of the background for this post.)
In the unlikely event you need more evidence: The president issued an executive order last year that lets the CIA chief veto rulings against secrecy. (See section 5.3(f).)
Finally, here's a question: The so-called Fay report on military intel's role in abuses of prisoners is due next month. Any bets on whether it too will be sketchily stamped secret?