Saturday, September 29, 2007

August 3

A federal judge ruled that the CIA can force Valerie Plame to remain silent about the length of her time at spook central, even though that information is already publicly available in places including the Congressional Record. The net effect is that information can be labeled classified even when it's already public. This, according to US District Judge Barbara Jones in New York, is "sound policy."

I say it's more of a way to punish people for stating facts that government doesn't want us to know. For one dramatic example, back in November 1979 The Progressive magazine published "The H-bomb secret: How we got it - why we're telling it." The article argued that there was no "secret," that the information was available to anyone, including any foreign agency or power, that wanted to find it.

However, the article had been subjected to an injunction in a rare case of imposing prior restraint on publication on the grounds that it contained classified information, the release of which would be dangerous to national security. That injunction was lifted only after another researcher within just a couple of months duplicated the original author's work, proving the original point.

Note, however, that by Judge Jones' ruling, the fact that the info was publicly available would not have mattered: The restraining order still could be maintained and anyone who did publish the information might face charges of unauthorized distribution of classified materials.

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