Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

May 06, 2006

Bush secret-keeping is a terrifying trend

I'm afraid to open the newspaper anymore. Every day brings more frightening news about the direction our country is moving. Sunday was no exception.

In The Sun's article "Prosecution threat hangs over media" (April 30), we learn that the Bush administration is threatening to use espionage laws to prosecute journalists who report leaked information.

In "Cheney won't explain records classification" (April 30), we read: "Not only has the administration reported a drastic increase in the number of documents deemed `top secret,' `secret' or `confidential,' but the president has also authorized the reclassification of information that was public for years."

This secretive administration apparently does not want anyone - including its own citizens -- to know what it is up to.

It is claiming that this secrecy is essential for national security and that no laws are being broken.

Yet when we do find out what it is up to (from brave insiders who risk their careers by leaking the information to the media), we often see that our so-called leaders are engaged in illegal and unscrupulous activities such as operating secret detention centers and spying on U.S. citizens without a court order.

We need to put the brakes on the Bush administration before it is too late.

Joanne Heisel

Columbia

Keep generals out of public debates

In defending the public opposition by retired general officers to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Ted Galen Carpenter overlooks something ("Free speech for generals," Opinion

Commentary, April 27).

He defends the generals, finds it significant that they are "retired officers, not those on active duty," and disparages their critics as "wrong and hypocritical."

That may not be a wise choice of adjectives.

Mr. Carpenter bases his views on a mildly garbled citation to "Section 888 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice" (Section 888 is in Title 10 of the United States Code; in the numeration of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the material appears as Article 88).

He excerpts the text accurately as forbidding contemptuous utterances on the part of commissioned military officers toward their superiors.

However, in finding a meaningful distinction between retired officers and those on active duty, he overlooks Article 2 of the UCMJ, which provides explicitly that the statute, including Article 88, applies to, among others, "retired members of a regular component of the armed forces who are entitled to pay." Consequently, a retired general officer who publicly characterizes the secretary of defense as "incompetent" does, in fact, act unlawfully.

And in asserting a right to voice public criticism "once those officers submit their resignations," Mr. Carpenter also confuses retired officers with those who resign their commissions.

Retirement is not the same thing as resignation, and Article 2 does not apply to officers who resign their commissions.

This, however, is hardly more than quibbling in the context of the larger implications of his argument.

General officers, even when retired, maintain considerable - sometimes enormous - influence over their former colleagues and subordinates. Those former colleagues and associates control large quantities of bombs and guns.

It is for that reason difficult to identify any useful result from permitting retired officers to mount public attacks on a civilian defense secretary. (And why should they stop with a secretary? Why not a president? It is, after all, the president's policies that the secretary implements.)

It is this larger point that Mr. Carpenter misses.

The tradition of civilian control of the American military establishment is as old as the republic. Because this makes elected civilians ultimately accountable for the conduct of any war, citizens aggrieved by the conduct of that war may vote the rascals out.

Those wishing to permit the military to involve itself in politics should remember what happened to Pandora and Epimetheus.

They should also learn to sing "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina."

Ralph Lohmann

Bishopville

The writer is a retired civilian legal counsel for the Department of Defense.

They're not traitors for exposing lies

I heartily disagree with Cal Thomas' column "A traitor in our midst" (Opinion Commentary, April 26), in which he brands fired CIA employee Mary O. McCarthy a traitor under the dictionary definition he quoted: "One who betrays another's trust or is false to an obligation or duty."

I believe that this definition would be equally applicable to elected leaders or Cabinet secretaries who lie to the people to justify starting a war without provocation, engage in torture or spy on citizens who disagree with their policies.

I served at the Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C., during the Vietnam War, where I learned that our president, Cabinet leaders and generals consistently lied to justify continuing that war and unleashing horrors in Cambodia and neighboring countries.

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