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Hidden and revealed

March 1, 2012

A fair amount of space in this blog is taken up with the issues of the hidden and the revealed in literature, philosophy, and sacred writings – the esoteric and the exoteric.  This is a topic which fascinates me, and has been the study of philosophers from Plato to Leo Strauss.

This post, however, is concerned with a much more pedestrian example of the hidden and the revealed.

The ACLU made a Freedom of Information Act request of the State Department requesting the text of 23 embassy cables.  All of these cables have been previously fully released as part of the Wikileaks disclosures.

The State Department responded by releasing redacted versions of 11 of the cables, and withholding the remaining 12 in full.

Since these cables have already been disclosed by Wikileaks, we can determine exactly what sort of information the government uses to selectively release information to the public.  The Freedom of Information Act provides exceptions for a number of classes of information, but the State Department’s declassification decisions appear to be based not on the criteria specified in the statute, but rather on whether the documents embarrass the US or portray the US in a negative light.

The ACLU has put up a web page in which you can see the portions of the documents that government declassified, and then, by placing your mouse over the redacted sections, you can see what the government is keeping classified.  This is a unique view into the decisions of the government to share information with its citizens.

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