A Sour Approach to Secrecy


Speaking of the National Security Archive, there's a fascinating test case about the vast difference between Clinton and Bush declassification—in 1999, Bubba's administration released the complete 1975 biographical sketch [PDF] of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet by the Defense Intelligence Agency, with no deletions. In 2003, the Bush Administration happened to release the very same document, only this time with "large sections" blacked out on National Security grounds. What were they? Here's how the Washington Post described them:

For example, both versions describe him as "Caucasian" with an "oval face and a mustache." We're allowed to know he wears reading glasses and is "quiet." But the new version has blacked out this part: [WARNING: If You Do Not Have An "Eyes Only" Clearance, Do Not Continue Reading!] "Mild-mannered; very businesslike. Very honest, hard working, dedicated. A devoted, tolerant husband and father; lives very modestly. Drinks scotch and pisco sours; smokes cigarettes; likes parties. Sports interests are fencing, boxing and horseback riding. . . . Enjoys discussing world military problems and would respond to a frank, man-to-man approach."

Pisco sours?

It's always worth remembering—when the government claims National Security for classifying (and refusing to de-classify) documents, as the Bush Administration has done in record numbers, it is frequently lying.