The agent, Ali H. Soufan, argues in the book that the C.I.A. missed a chance to derail the 2001 plot by withholding from the F.B.I. information about two future 9/11 hijackers living in San Diego, according to several people who have read the manuscript. And he gives a detailed, firsthand account of the C.I.A.’s move toward brutal treatment in its interrogations, saying the harsh methods used on the agency’s first important captive, Abu Zubaydah, were unnecessary and counterproductive.The article suggests that the C.I.A.'s redactions are more about either avoiding embarrassment or trying to control how the history of 9/11 is told than national security. The CIA spokeswoman, of course, denies this:
“The suggestion that the Central Intelligence Agency has requested redactions on this publication because it doesn’t like the content is ridiculous. The C.I.A.’s pre-publication review process looks solely at the issue of whether information is classified.”We saw this issue earlier when it came out that federal employees, who are not allowed to read classified information they aren't cleared to read, were not allowed to read any of the wikileaks cables, even though the material was in the public domain.
As I often try to point out here, everything is related, and today, there was an article in the ADN by Judith Kleinfeld titled "Thought the Cure for Most Blunders." In it she cites an example from psychologist Madeline Van Heckeof's book, Blind Spot, about going to the driveup ATM window and proudly pointing out to a young foreign visitor in the car, that the US is sensitive to the handicapped - they have Braille on the ATM machine. The young guest laughs and asks, "How many blind people drive?"
Van Heckeof, as related by Kleinfeld, goes on to explain that
Most of the time our minds work pretty well. But sometimes smart people do stupid things, she points out. We have a systematic set of "blind spots" in our minds like the blind spots in our cars.
- While it might be available in the public domain, it might not be available where someone was likely to find it. A new book will make it more accessible to more people.
- A book could take a lot of different pieces of information available in different places in the public domain and put them all together - such as how to build a bomb. Fewer people would be able to figure it all out if the book didn't come out.
- All of us who have made mistakes, surely, would like to prevent others from explaining how stupid we were, if we could.
- As suggested in the article, there may be an attempt to control the information that is used to write history and information that contradicts one's beliefs. In this case, the article suggests that Soufan's account contradicts, among other things, Cheney's assertions that torture was necessary to get information.
The 3rd reason, while a natural inclination for all humans, isn't justifiable for government officials in a democracy. The information has to get out and then people can form their conclusions about performance and accountability.
The same logic fits for the 4th point. Suppressing information is no way to find the truth.
So, check out your own blind spots. And gently help others, including me, see theirs.