United States Government Secrecy - Claims of U.S. Government Misuse of The Classification System

Claims of U.S. Government Misuse of The Classification System

“It is desired that no document be released which refers to experiments with humans and might have adverse effect on public opinion or result in legal suits. Documents covering such work field should be classified `secret’.”

April 17, 1947 Atomic Energy Commission memo from Colonel O.G. Haywood, Jr. to Dr. Fidler at the Oak Ridge Laboratory in Tennessee See also: Moynihan Commission on Government Secrecy

Max Weber:

Every bureaucracy strives to increase the superiority of its position by keeping its knowledge and intentions secret. Bureaucratic administration always seeks to evade the light of the public as best it can, because in so doing it shields its knowledge and conduct from criticism...

While the classification of information by the government is not supposed to be used to prevent information from being made public that would be simply embarrassing or reveal criminal acts, it has been alleged that the government routinely misuses the classification system to cover up criminal activity and the potentially embarrassing.

Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists and an expert on classified information, notes that

... inquiring into classified government information and disclosing it is something that many national security reporters and policy analysts do, or try to do, every day. And with a few narrow exceptions—for particularly sensitive types of information—courts have determined that this is not a crime." Aftergood notes, "The universe of classified information includes not only genuine national security secrets, such as confidential intelligence sources or advanced military technologies, but an endless supply of mundane bureaucratic trivia, such as 50-year-old intelligence budget figures, as well as the occasional crime or cover-up.

In the The Pentagon Papers case, a classified study was published revealing that four administrations had misled the American public about their intentions in the Vietnam War, increasing the credibility gap. Russo and Ellsberg were prosecuted under Espionage Law. The case prompted Harold Edgar & Benno C. Schmidt, Jr. to write a review of Espionage law in the 1973 Columbia Law Review. Their article was entitled "The Espionage Statutes and Publication of Defense Information". In it, they point out that Espionage law does not criminalize classified information, only national defense information. They point out that Congress has repeatedly resisted or failed to make the disclosing of classified information illegal, in and of itself. Instead, Congress has strictly limited which sort of classified information is illegal, and under which specific circumstances it is illegal. i.e. in 18 U.S.C. § 798 congress specifically criminalized leaking cryptographic information that is classified, but when it passed the law it specifically stated the law didn't criminalize disclosing other types of classified information. Another article that discusses the issue is by Jennifer Elsea of the Congressional Research Service.

Many conspiracy theories such as the JFK assassination theories suggest that the government has classified information as Top Secret that reveals the involvement of agencies such as the CIA.

Various UFO conspiracies mention a level "Above Top Secret" used for UFO design information and related data. They suggest such a classification is intended to apply to information relating to things whose possible existence is to be denied, such as aliens, as opposed to things whose potential existence may be recognized, but for which access to information regarding specific programs would be denied as classified. The British government, for example, denied for several decades that they were either involved or interested in UFO sightings. However, in 2008, the government revealed they have monitored UFO activity for at least the past 30 years. The existence of an "Above Top Secret" classification is considered by some as unnecessary to keep the existence of aliens a secret, as they say information at the Top Secret level, or any level for that matter, can be restricted on the basis of need to know. Thus, the U.S. government could conceal an alien project without having to resort to another level of clearance, as need to know would limit the ability to have access to the information. Some suggest that claims of the existence of such a classification level may be based on the unsubstantiated belief that the levels of classification are themselves classified. As such, they feel that books claiming to contain "Above Top Secret" information on UFOs or remote viewing should arguably be taken with a grain of salt.

Without making a judgment on if such classifications have been used for space aliens, it is a reality that even the names of some compartments were classified, and certainly the meaning of the code names. In the cited document, an (S) means the material it precedes is Secret and (TS) means Top Secret. According to the Department of Defense directive, "the fact of" the existence of NRO was at the secret level for many years, as well as the fact of and the actual phrase "National Reconnaissance Program" (see Paragraph II). Paragraph V(a) is largely redacted, but the introduction to the documents clarifies (see Document 19) that it refers to the now-cancelled BYEMAN code word and control channel for NRO activities. BYEMAN, the main NRO compartment, was classified as a full word, although the special security offices could refer, in an unclassified way, to "B policy".

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