VerDate 0ct 09 2002
I think would be destructive of our efforts to move forward on something we all agree on on a bipartisan basis.
But could you just speak as a reporter how you view the balance between the security interests that obviously are so important and the public’s right to know?
Mr. MEARS. Obviously, drawing that line has always been a very difficult decision to make. It seems to me that the starting assump- tion ought to be that ‘‘classified’’ and ‘‘security’’ don’t mean the same thing. It has been pointed out that over-classification may have contributed to the terrorists’ feeling that they were operating secretly and could go ahead with 9/11. There has been, I think, a 60 percent increase in classification of documents in recent years.
That does two things. It seems to me to speak to going too far over the line on the side of secrecy as opposed to disclosure and of over-classification, of making classification decisions that aren’t warranted. I believe that Tom Ridge made that observation him- self, that much of what he saw classified shouldn’t have been clas- sified. I remember Senator Moynihan, the late Senator Moynihan fought a long battle about classification and about taking some of these reams of documents, some of them ancient history, that are still classified secret.
My other observation on the classification problem would be that if you classify more and more material, you are much more likely to lessen the use of valid classification to protect real necessary se- crets. If everything is classified, then my colleagues are going to go after everything. I have already said a couple of times, we don’t want security information. We don’t want to equip terrorists with information that could hurt this country. But neither do we want to be deprived of information that the people of the United States ought to know.
One of the stories you will find in my written testimony is about a Civil War episode in which an AP reporter tried to file a story about Robert E. Lee’s army marching up the Shenandoah Valley and was told that it couldn’t be reported because it would com- promise secrets. Our guy, my ancient journalistic ancestor, said, ‘‘Well, don’t you suppose the Confederates know they are marching up the Shenandoah Valley?’’
[Laughter.] Mr. MEARS. And the censor said, ‘‘I guess they do,’’ and let the story go. I think there is a lot of that mindset and that it is some- thing we need to guard against.
Senator CORNYN. Thank you. Senator Leahy? Senator LEAHY. Thank you very much. Listening to Mr. Mears, it makes me think of a time, I remember once on the Intelligence Committee, the third time in two weeks the then-Director of the CIA was in. They had this emergency meeting to say, here is some- thing I realize I am required to tell you by law, and I hadn’t told— he hadn’t told anybody in the Congress. But the reason we had these three emergency meetings, it had been on the front page of either the New York Times or the Washington Post. None of us had been told about it, but there it was. And he came up and said, ‘‘I was supposed to, under law, I was supposed to tell you and I didn’t get around to it, but now it has been in the press.’’ So I finally said, you know, we could save so much money and come up here, just
09:04 Nov 08, 2005