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The closed state cometh.

In the hands of the generals and directors of the national security state, secrecy is a weapon of aggression as well as a device of defense. This Administration is obsessed with secrecy, and every time it mobilizes to stanch a leak, indict a spy or shroud a space shot, it is also projecting police power and military might. The uses of secrecy are extending far into the political realm, beyond the necessity of self-protection.

When the Defense Department announced, with all the drama its news management team could produce, that the details of the January shuttle flight would be secret, even casual observers of military matters figured that a signals intelligence collecting device--the well-reported SIGINT satellite--would be aboard. Caspar Weinberger came close to charging The Washington Post with treason last week for publishing what everyone already knew. The show of secrecy was meant to mystify the American audience, impress allies and frighten the Russians.

The recent rash of spy arrests seems to derive from the same scare tactics, rather than from stepped-up K.G.B. operations. Over the decades our spies and theirs have achieved a rough parity. The decision to go public about the other side's spies is usually based as much on cold war politics as on national security.

Consider the curious arrest of Karl F. Koecher, a Czech emigre who became an American citizen and worked for the C.I.A. Under F.B.I. questioning, he mentioned giving a document to Prague in 1975--at the C.I.A.'s behest, he claimed. Thomas P. Cavanagh, the Northrop engineer with a rock-bottom security clearance, reportedly offered the Russians "secret Stealth airplane technology" over the telephone. Unfortunately for him, the F.BI. was also on the line. It's that easy these days to reach out and touch the national secrecy state.

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Title Annotation:the administration's obsession with secrecy
Publication:The Nation
Article Type:editorial
Date:Dec 29, 1984
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