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Government secrets revealed after 10 years: Bush served tea to the Chinese


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I ran across something that looked pretty juicy: Tienanmen Square, 1989: The Declassified History -- A National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book. The frothy 1999 introduction says:

"Among the highlights of this collection are the detailed (and previously classified) U.S. government accounts of the infamous military assault by the Chinese government on pro-democracy demonstrators in and around Tiananmen Square in Beijing in June 1989."

Now the collection is interesting and of some value. But the best stuff still is classified. For example, President Bush and his top national security team met with Wan Li and a bunch of senior Chinese mucky-mucks at the White House on May 23, 1989, right when Tiananmen Square was really heating up.

The "heavily excised" summary of this meeting is a thing of beauty, and belongs in the Censorship Hall of Fame. We get a full listing of the participants, perfunctory introductory remarks (including Bush's offer of tea), and then 4-1/2 pages of censored white space -- interspersed by some hilarious non-sequitors. ("The President said he had seen that story.")

Other documents are also heavily censored, including the Secretary of State's "Morning Summary for June 2nd and June 3rd. Most of the censored sections in these documents have the curious handwritten notation "BIAS" next to them. Of particular interest were long sections of the June 2nd memo, relating to Sino-Israeli relations, which were struck for apparent "BIAS" reasons.

While I credit the government for releasing this much information, it's puzzling how much is still hidden. This release was fully 10 years after the events. What's still such a secret? Don't we have an interest in overseeing how our government operates, especially with regard to international relations with major powers such as China? How can we govern our own government if we don't know what the government is doing in the first place?

I'm serious in asking these questions, and I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who deals with such classified information. I'd like to understand why so much information can be considered classified for so long, and how the government gets away with this, when we have clear FOIA rights and the government is supposed to be working for us. (Naive, I know.)

Yes, I realize there are indeed some government secrets worth keeping, but my feeling is that the government starts from a perspective of trying to keep *everything* secret, which is fundamentally undemocratic, in my view.

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I'm serious in asking these questions, and I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who deals with such classified information. I'd like to understand why so much information can be considered classified for so long, and how the government gets away with this, when we have clear FOIA rights and the government is supposed to be working for us. (Naive, I know.)

"You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!"

-Jack Nicholson

Really ASF, the secret documents of the Kennedy assasination will be revealed NEXT decade when all those involved are deceased. So when all of those involved in the document mentioned above are deceased, then you will have the full version.

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