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NUKE-u-lar MOH-rons


Why do Republicans not understand the meaning of the term "national security secret?" 

Not content with the mere outing of a CIA NOC by her own government, and blowing a whole network of undercover operatives and assets working on WMD issues in the Middle East, including in Iraq and Iran, the Bush Administration took its idiocy a step further:  they published documents seized from Iraq online in a big, fat docu-dump as some sort of massive CYA maneuver to shore up support with their right-wing blogger mouthpieces and crazies like Rep. Curt Weldon and Sen. Rick Santorum, who still swear that there are WMDs buried somewhere in the Iraqi sands.

Except no one in the Bush Administration bothered to contemplate the ramifications of publishing thousands of pages of documents containing research and information on weapons of mass destruction theories from chemical and biological agents through to nuclear materials that Saddam Hussein had his scientists studying and collecting from the 1970s/1980s (when he was a US ally, btw) on to 2003. 

Because in today's Republican party, it is ALL about the immediate need to make yourself look good — and to hell with the long-term national security consequences

The documents, roughly a dozen in number, contain charts, diagrams, equations and lengthy narratives about bomb building that nuclear experts who have viewed them say go beyond what is available elsewhere on the Internet and in other public forums. For instance, the papers give detailed information on how to build nuclear firing circuits and triggering explosives, as well as the radioactive cores of atom bombs.

“For the U.S. to toss a match into this flammable area is very irresponsible,” said A. Bryan Siebert, a former director of classification at the federal Department of Energy, which runs the nation’s nuclear arms program. “There’s a lot of things about nuclear weapons that are secret and should remain so.”

The government had received earlier warnings about the contents of the Web site. Last spring, after the site began posting old Iraqi documents about chemical weapons, United Nations arms-control officials in New York won the withdrawal of a report that gave information on how to make tabun and sarin, nerve agents that kill by causing respiratory failure.

The campaign for the online archive was mounted by conservative publications and politicians, who said that the nation’s spy agencies had failed adequately to analyze the 48,000 boxes of documents seized since the March 2003 invasion. With the public increasingly skeptical about the rationale and conduct of the war, the chairmen of the House and Senate intelligence committees argued that wide analysis and translation of the documents — most of them in Arabic — would reinvigorate the search for clues that Mr. Hussein had resumed his unconventional arms programs in the years before the invasion. American search teams never found such evidence.

I just want to point out that the chairmen of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees thought this was a swell idea because public support for the Iraq War and the WMD justifications for that war were being substantially questioned.  That would be Pete Hoekstra and Pat Roberts, FYI, and I would like some follow-up questions on why they put party interests above national security concerns — and why they are still the chairmen of these committees.  Appalling lack of judgment, absolutely appalling.

There is a reason that technology transfer is such a highly regulated area of diplomatic and business negotiations and scientific study. There is a whole host of information that you just don't post around the internet for all and sundry…say Osama Bin Laden and his pals…to be able to read and crib from at will. That the Bush Administration, Republicans in Congress and the idiot wingnut bloggers who have been blabbing this around, and publishing it wholesale, did not understand this fundamental national security principle is astonishing enough.

That it has taken this long, after numerous protests from foreign governments, UN weapons inspectors and, finally, the IAEA, to get the Bush Administration to remove this from a public online database? Well, that just says it all, doesn't it. Party propaganda opportunity over country.

Oliver Willis cites a great interview with Michael Scheur on this subject from quite a while ago, soon after the documents were posted online:

MICHAEL SCHEUER: Well, I think certainly the fact that we don't know what's in these documents could pose a risk to the United States in several ways – first, in terms of embarrassment. Who knows, for example, if there's going to be a memorandum of conversation from when Rumsfeld dealt with Saddam back in the '80s? There could be information in those documents that would be operationally useful to the intelligence community in terms of stopping some sort of terrorist attack. There was a great deal of dealing between our allies — supposed allies in Europe and Saddam Hussein's government commercial dealings — and I think the documents may expose those and cause even further rifts between NATO members.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Now, when you talk about embarrassment – say, for instance, an embarrassing moment between Rumsfeld and Saddam in the days when Saddam was a kind of ally – it says in the law that that material should not be held from public view solely on the grounds of embarrassment.

MICHAEL SCHEUER: Well, no, of course, it should not be held, but it should not also be discovered. It's just a matter of the way you do business. This is just another example of the contempt that Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney and their colleagues have for the intelligence community. You know, this is not opposing it just for the sake of secrecy. It's opposing the release of these documents to make sure that every bit of advantage for America can be extracted from them that should be extracted from them.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Well, clearly, somebody feels it's in America's interest. This has been a Republican-pushed release. Would there be some potential benefit for the Republicans?

MICHAEL SCHEUER: Oh, I think clearly there is, and we've already seen their mouthpiece, The Weekly Standard, has already run a couple of articles saying that this proves Saddam did X or did Y, without any [LAUGHING] real knowledge of how the new documents fit into the context of everything else we know. It's just plain amateurishness – or they know what's in these documents and they figure it can help them by releasing it.  (emphasis mine)

Party before country, indeed. Atrios has more. For some background on the docudump, Gavin has some details.  And Will Bunch has some great questions.  Stirling asks this morning how many potholes we will have to endure with this Administration and the idiot Republican Congress that enabled them to do this in the first place.

For everyone's sake, please vote for Democrats.  This idiocy has got to stop before Iran North Korea terrorists some kid who will be getting a PC for Christmas this year can get his hands on national security secrets knowingly and willingly posted online, publicly, by the Bush Administration, with the full knowledge and approval of the Republicans who control both houses of Congress.  I have had more than enough, but this really tears it.

Yee haw is not a foreign policy. Moh-ron. 

UPDATE:  As commenter Prof. Foland says:  "Politics can be so easy when you’re unburdened by any knowledge. These documents are from Saddam’s pre-1991 program, which was well-known (it’s the program the Israelis tried to destroy at Osirak in 1981)."   Yes, knowledge is so last Administration, isn't it?

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com