Rumsfeld's Cluetrain


Donald Rumsfeld has a very interesting op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal that makes a qualified and somewhat disingenuous case for government openness as a weapon in waging the War on Terror. Sample:

I have long believed in the importance of granting the public greater access to information about their government — the good and the bad. Almost four decades ago, while serving as a member of Congress, I was a co-sponsor of the legislation later called the "Freedom of Information Act" that allows individual citizens and the press to obtain access to public documents, absent a showing by the government of a need to keep certain information confidential. […]

Following the publicity of allegations of detainee abuse, the Pentagon even declassified and published memoranda pertaining to interrogation techniques and detainee policies.

Rumsfeld conveniently leaves out that it was his and Dick Cheney's lobbying that convinced Gerald Ford to veto the 1974 expansion of the FOIA to include the crucial arenas of law enforcement and National Security, and obviously the Pentagon's detainee-abuse disclosure record is not as rosy as the Donald claims here, but that's not necessarily what makes this interesting. The fact of the column itself confirms that the Defense apparatus is thinking seriously and urgently about the management of worldwide information flows, something we've been following here for a while.

Rummy's recs? 1) "[G]overnment officials will need to communicate clearly and often," 2) "[A] healthy culture of communication and transparency between government and the public needs to be established," 3) "[P]rotecting the secrecy of confidential information that, if revealed, could harm the security of the U.S.," 4) "[G]overnment officials must find new and better ways to communicate America's mission abroad. This will mean embracing new ways of engaging people across the world, as the U.S. Information Agency and Radio Free Europe did during the Cold War. We will need to find ways to use the capabilities offered by the Information Age to counter the toxic images and lies that target the U.S. and to better inform the world about our nation's efforts."

Do you trust Rumsfeld & Co. to "find ways" that are consistent with National Security, the principle of openness, and basic morality? Read the whole thing, and those other links, and judge for yourself. I, for one, took interest in his choice of an opening line: "Every conflict in history has seen its share of rumor, propaganda and misinformation."