Thursday, November 18, 2004

Big Brother is Watching and He is Warning That You Better Keep Your Mouth Shut

My draft letter, to be sent later today, to Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) says this so far:

Dear Senator Wyden:

I know you are working hard to prevent our intelligence and security apparatus from becoming one big “yes-boss” organization. As cabinet members continue to bail out, the crackdown on independent thought in the CIA is now apparently spreading to the Dept of State and the Dept of Homeland Security, the latter of which is requiring all 180,000 of its employees to sign a nondisclosure statement.

As a retired military officer who lived and worked through the Cold War, it grieves and angers me that we are clearly showing signs of becoming like the controlled societies of the communist era we opposed at every turn. They crushed dissent and controlled information from the public in order to stay in power.

I am not an alarmist, but I am alarmed. Someone, or several someones, high in the government, is pushing at every opportunity to close our government, our society, and our freedoms. Neither am I a conspiracy theorist, but the patterns of ham-handed control, evident during Mr. Bush’s political rallies, requiring loyalty pledges, are beginning to spread through the government.

Who is responsible for giving these orders? If not the president, then who? This is not a random happening, and this is a disastrous course for our country, if we keep on it.

I appreciated hearing your clear and committed stance toward maintaining our freedoms that you so well expressed during your visit to Portland, at Powell’s bookstore, just before the election. I support you in those efforts and ask that you do everything in your power, and in concert with other government leaders, to stop this hatchet job on our freedoms in the name of fear.

(Note for readers: see the full Washington Post article, produced in part below)

Homeland Security Employees Required to Sign Secrecy Pledge

Gag Order Raises Concern on Hill

The Department of Homeland Security is requiring thousands of employees and contractors to sign nondisclosure agreements that prohibit them from sharing sensitive but unclassified information with the public.

The department was rebuffed, however, when it also tried to require congressional aides to sign the secrecy pledges as a condition for gaining access to certain materials, majority and minority spokesmen for the House Select Committee on Homeland Security said yesterday.

DHS spokeswoman Valerie Smith said in an interview that all 180,000 employees and contractors are being required to sign the three-page forms as part of working for the agency, a policy formalized in May. State and local security officials are asked to sign the statement for classified information only.

Smith said the agreements do not exempt underlying information from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. Signers are given the form "simply to inform and educate them about the sensitivity of that information and the need to protect it. . . . It does not do anything to further obscure or shroud that information," she said.

But congressional critics and government watchdog organizations such as the Federation of American Scientists call the policy a potentially precedent-setting expansion of official secrecy whose provisions are overly broad and unworkable, if not unconstitutional.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link