Courtesy Reuters

Secrets and Laws

By John R. Liebman

After reading Jack Shafer’s review of Rahul Sagar’s Secrets and Leaks (“Live and Let Leak,” March/April 2014), it strikes me as important to distinguish between the United States’ security classification system itself and an individual’s decision to breach his obligation of confidentiality.

Few people today would dispute the notion that the classification process needs to be totally overhauled. But those who work for the government or have access to information that is controlled by the government are still bound by law to maintain its confidentiality and cannot be permitted to unilaterally decide to disseminate that information, no matter how noble their intentions.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that Shafer’s review endorses such a view, but I am concerned that Sagar envisions circumstances in which individuals can decide on their own to contravene those obligations. I maintain that there are none; ultimately, the U.S. Congress and the executive branch must address classification as a matter of policy.

JOHN R. LIEBMAN
Santa Fe, New Mexico

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