Method to the Madness

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Last week, U.S. District Judge David Levi ruled that two Presidential Daily Briefings (PDBs) from the Johnson Administration could be kept secret at the behest of George W. Bush's White House, on grounds that the method of intelligence gathering reflected therein is still functionally secret, or some damned thing. Levi came to this conclusion without actually reading the memos themselves. Links & outrage over at the National Security Archive; double-secret hat tip to Thomas Nephew.

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  1. Er, if the method used to get the information, rather than the information itself, is what needs to be kept secret, the complaint that the judge didn’t read the memos doesn’t seem particularly relevant.

  2. This intel must have been obtained via alien technology.
    Or perhaps LBJ’s brain is kept alive somewhere.

  3. Hold on, Joe: if one can deduce the “method of intelligence gathering” without even reading the document, then, it follows that the document itself MIGHT be read independently and not reveal the methods used to gather it. I’m not saying it is or isn’t, but it MIGHT. The only way to know is to read the actual document. Otherwise, he could just classify the other portions which reveal the methods, and declassify the part that doesn’t.

    Thus, it is certainly relevent whether or not he read the actual document.

  4. Joe,
    How could the judge understand the cross-examination of gov’t witnesses if he didn’t read the memo.

    Moreover, how could there be meaningful cross of gov’t witnesses if the lawyer representing the public’s interest here did not read the memo.

  5. BTW, did anyone else see the story about U2 spy planes going back into production for our allies in the Gulf?

    Jes sayin…

  6. This is a pretty typical decision from the courts; judges just don’t like to meddle in this area.

  7. I’ve thought about it, and now I realize the judge was just being prudent about not reading the memos. He didn’t read them because he realized if he did, they’d have to keep *him* secret, too.

  8. Is Bush’s full name George Secrecy Walker Bush? 🙂

  9. BTW, the notions that a method from the 1960s is still secret is utter hogwash. Look, spy agencies compete with each other and breakdown the methodology, tradecraft, etc. all the fucking time. Anyway, I bet the pdbs are pictures of of LBJ meeting with say, the Beatles. 🙂

  10. If you need to keep the method of information gathering a secret, fine, keep the documnent’s content a secret.

    But if you want to keep the content a secret, why not keep the very existence of the document a secret?

    Nothing riles and provokes people more than knowing that there are documents they aren’t allowed to read.

    How I’d prefer to deal with it:

    “So, why won’t you declassify the memos?”

    “Memos? What Memos? Don’t even exist.”

    “Hello? The ones in the National Security Archive.”

    “National Security Archive? What National Security Archive? Doesn’t exist.”

    “uh… The Presidential Daily Briefings from the Johnson Administration?”

    “Johnson Administration? What Johnson Administration? Never existed.”

  11. So what if the PBRs describe a certain meeting that took place between CIA special agent Bush and daddy Bin Laden over a future oil venture. Release them, if you did nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear!

  12. Is Bush’s full name George Secrecy Walker Bush?

    Sorry, that information’s classified.

  13. I’m with Mr. Moore on this one. If the Bush administration has done nothing wrong, they shouldn’t have anything to fear. Conversely (contrapositively?), if they are afraid to release the memos, they must be covering up some evil deed.

    I am completely certain my reasoning is valid, because that’s the reasoning the government always uses whenever they want additional powers to search our financial records, library records, video rental records, travel records, and everything else they can think of.

    Alternatively, the next time the government wants my records, they should be willing to accept my claim that disclosing them will harm me in a way that I choose not to specify.

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