TOO MANY SECRETS

by David Sisler

It is a curious bit of Russian humor, but it reveals a national paranoia with secrecy. In the help wanted section of Pravda, appeared this ad: "Wanted: illiterate person to type top secret documents."

In 1995, the latest year for which such figures are available, and years after the Cold War ended, the U.S. Government produced almost one half million Top Secret documents. Current regulations requires that a document receive a Top Secret classification if it is deemed that its disclosure would cause "exceptionally grave damage to the national security."

It costs taxpayers $5 billion a year to keep cryptic all of our Top Secret documents. According to Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan the burgeoning of official secrets is bafflingly out-of-control.

A powerful coalition, led by the Senator from New York, has been contemplating the veiled problem, and reveals that they are privy to the enigma's solution there is too much government bureaucracy. Well, now, there's a huge secret!

From his perch high atop the Senate's Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy (Is that an oxymoron protecting and reducing?) Senator Moynihan says, "We are not proposing putting an end to secrecy. It is at times terribly necessary and used for the most legitimate reasons. But secrecy need not remain the only norm: We must develop a competing culture of openness, fully consistent with our interests in protecting national security."

To this end, the Senator proposes that Congress join in the clandestine process, assisting the Executive Branch in its quest to keep America's covert documents hidden. According to this thinking, we can better keep confidential our nation's secrets if more people know about them. Evidently Mr. Moynihan has never heard the old riddle: Can two people keep a secret? Answer: Yes, but only if one of them is dead.

No one would argue that national security may, at momentous times, does not depend upon secrets which are well kept. When "Enigma" the Nazi's seemingly unbreakable code device was broken, Prime Minister Winston Churchill kept it a secret, at the cost of the destruction of Coventry, England. But that secret kept the Allies privy to Germany's secrets.

On the other hand, for fifty years, the U.S. secrecy system concealed evidence of extortion by Nazi Germany throughout occupied Europe and suppressed documentation of stolen funds that were deposited in Swiss banks. Classification also hid bank account records that would have enabled Holocaust survivors or their heirs to claim assets that have been inaccessible in Swiss banks since World War II. The documents were generated in Operation Safe Haven, a U.S. government activity conducted after the war to search for Nazi assets.

Senator Alfonse D'Amato, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, said, "One of these documents, dated July 12, 1945, shows 182 accounts totaling $2 million. Adjusted for inflation, these accounts today would be worth in the area of $20 million."

Senator D'Amato cited another recently declassified 1942 document that detailed the transfer of gold thought to have been looted from Nazi-occupied countries in Europe. "This is just one transfer, and it involves 21 tons of German gold." There appears to be no valid justification for keeping these documents secret for fifty years.

Too many secrets.

Capital Shredders Corporation is confident that they can be of assistance. They offer a range of Department of Defense (DOD) approved paper shredders in compliance with U.S. Government regulations which will destroy all levels of classified material. According to their advertisements, "These paper shredders are engineered to meet the most stringent security demands of the DOD, NATO, and other government, military, and commercial organizations worldwide." Their model X500 Auto features cross-cut action and 1/32" x 7/16" residue which provides a reliable method of disposing of Top Secret documents and messages. Now we can all sleep peacefully tonight.

Fifty years ago Hollywood was mass producing western movies. As part of their production, these film companies had a regular crew of cowboy musicians to do the back ground music and occasionally appear in the movie doing one or two of their songs. One of the best was Stuart Hamblin, a talented singer/songwriter with a reputation for hard drinking and hard living. Almost overnight he changed. A young actor named John Wayne asked, "Stuart, what's your secret?"

His answer became the basis for a song which was eventually performed by Kate Smith and Elvis Presley and has been translated into fifty languages. "John," he answered, "it is no secret what God can do."

The chorus of Hamblin's song says, "It is no secret what God can do. What He's done for others, He'll do for you. With arms wide open, He'll pardon you. It is no secret what God can do."

Salvation through Jesus Christ is no secret. Pass it on!

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Published in the Augusta Chronicle 9/20/97

Copyright 1997 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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