Diana West

Last month, I noted that Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Jim Webb of Virginia had written to national archivist David S. Ferriero on Nov. 7, asking him to open the records of the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, which Ferriero has summarily sealed for 20 years. Guess what? Webb's office tells me it still hasn't received a reply. Where's WikiLeaks when you need it?

It's been about a year since the furor crescendoed over Wikileaks. Actually, "furor" is too mild a term. This was baying for blood. (Charles Krauthammer and Mike Huckabee talked about "execution," while Sarah Palin practically called in a drone strike herself.) Then and now, I consider the revelations of lying, incompetence and betrayal of foundational principle, as revealed by the Wikileaks organization's massive dumps of classified documents, to be a public service.

We heard an awful lot about "blood" being on WikiLeaks' hands, but it all seemed to come down to egg on officials' faces. The fact is, a government of the people, by the people and for the people -- whose officials, as information security experts Elizabeth Goitein and William Leonard recently wrote in The New York Times, "made 77 million decisions to classify information" in 2010 alone -- should have the shutters yanked off so the sun can shine in.

Unfortunately, we just get more shutters. For example, the Obama administration just sealed the court records on the murder of federal agent Brian Terry, whose killers, Mexican drug smugglers, used weapons from a failed federal program to smuggle arms into Mexico. As Judicial Watch noted: "No one will know the reason for the confiscation of public court records in this case because the judge's decision to seal it was also sealed."

That's about as secret as it gets. What WikiLeaks was dealing with was classified information that the 4.2 million Americans with security clearances already could read.

Yes, you read that number right, but I'll write it again to make sure it sticks. In its first public count ever, the intelligence community reported to Congress in September that 4.2 million Americans have security clearances, with nearly 1.2 million of those being "Top Secret." Suddenly, the charges against Bradley Manning, the Army private who allegedly leaked tens of thousands of classified documents and whose pretrial hearings begin next week, fall into a new and quite sprawling context.


Diana West

Diana West is the author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character (St. Martin's Press, 2013), and The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization (St. Martin's Press, 2007).