The Silliness of Secrecy
This is a great article on some of the ridiculous effects of government secrecy. (Unfortunately, you have to register to read it.)
Ever since Sept. 11, 2001, the federal government has advised airplane pilots against flying near 100 nuclear power plants around the country or they will be forced down by fighter jets. But pilots say there's a hitch in the instructions: aviation security officials refuse to disclose the precise location of the plants because they consider that "SSI" -- Sensitive Security Information.
"The message is; 'please don't fly there, but we can't tell you where there is,'" says Melissa Rudinger of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, a trade group representing 60% of American pilots.
Determined to find a way out of the Catch-22, the pilots' group sat down with a commercial mapping company, and in a matter of days plotted the exact geographical locations of the plants from data found on the Internet and in libraries. It made the information available to its 400,000 members on its Web site -- until officials from the Transportation Security Administration asked them to take the information down. "Their concern was that [terrorists] mining the Internet could use it," Ms. Rudinger says.
For example, when a top Federal Aviation Administration official testified last year before the 9/11 commission, his remarks were broadcast live nationally. But when the administration included a transcript in a recent report on threats to commercial airliners, the testimony was heavily edited. "How do you redact something that is part of the public record?" asked Rep. Carolyn Maloney, (D., N.Y.) at a recent hearing on the problems of government overclassification. Among the specific words blacked out were the seemingly innocuous phrase: "we are hearing this, this, this, this and this."
Government officials could not explain why the words were withheld, other than to note that they were designated SSI.
Posted on March 24, 2005 at 9:48 AM • 21 Comments