Secrecy and Defense

Edmund Burke once said that “there is no safety for honest men except by believing in all possible evils of evil men.” In the United States, there is a very small minority that takes it upon themselves to stand on a line between the honest men and the evil men.

One of the stated purposes of the Constitution of the United States found in the preamble is to “provide for the common defense.” In providing that defense, there comes a point where you cross from the open and transparent into the dark and clouded world of military secrecy. In personal conversations, I have found that many libertarians colleagues believe that our government and military should have absolutely no secrets whatsoever and remain completely open. Having served nine years in the United States Navy, this concept does not exactly compute with me.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to defend PRISM, telecom data mining, XKeyscore, parallel construction, drone strikes against random individuals, or even waterboarding by the CIA. What I am going to defend is a branch of this argument that I do believe escapes many of us. This is my personal opinion based upon a decade of training and experience.

Military secrecy is absolutely necessary to defend the United States from foreign aggression. If we were to instantly declassify all information (as many libertarians have suggested to me) which includes information on advanced, next-generation weapons systems, it would effectively lift the fog of war for our enemies. They would be able to develop countermeasures to every system we have, effectively rendering them useless.

The secrecy employed is, for the most part, not intended to keep information from the American people, but from our enemies that would do us harm (not exactly a popular phrase in our community right now). The bottom line is that it gives us the advantage in war fighting. I want my brothers in the military to have the upper-hand at all times.

We have a right to privacy from the government and any clandestine programs that subvert the rights that are protected by the Constitution have to go. There is no excuse for domestic spying programs that monitor and catalog the people. That is, however, a completely separate argument from military secrecy concerning generally classified information. There is no reason for every person to know what next generation weapons system is being developed or to be briefed on the enemy’s habits.

This concept even goes so far as to mundane intelligence that when properly analyzed can tell us a lot about the enemy’s habits and capabilities.  While on active duty, I was privy to a brief on just that.  Had this been an open source discussion on the internet, the enemy surely would have changed their tactics and habits immediately had they known what we knew. The end result: men and women you may know today might not be alive.  Am I willing to land on the side of secrecy when it saves the lives of my brothers and sisters in the Armed Forces?  Absolutely.

There are sheepdogs that walk among the flock to protect against the wolf. Let’s not betray them. Many have given their lives for us.

Content published on the Young Americans for Liberty blog is only representative of the opinions and research of the individual authors. It does not necessarily reflect the views, goals, or membership of YAL. 

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