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The government lied

You may or may not be familiar with United States v. Reynolds, but you have almost certainly aware of the national security/state secrets privilege that can be invoked by the U.S. government. This is the 1953 case that provided legal basis for a precedent that has remained controversial.

I learned last night that the precedent is founded on a complete lie. A total fabrication, based on fear of accountability for known mechanical issues with the B-29.

On Show #383 of This American Life, "Origin Story," Act Two tells the story of a B-29 aircraft that went down, the meager award sought by the widows, and the government's utter refusal to provide the accident report, saying that it was crucial to national security that it remain secret. Ira Glass exposes the fact that the government's denial of even closed-chambers judicial access to the report was completely and utterly without merit: the report was unsealed 50 years after the fact, and says nothing about the crew's mission. It merely says that there were secret materials aboard. That's it, and that was reported in the papers of the day. No, they simply wished to avoid paying the money the widows sought to care for the children left behind, and to avoid liability for sending the men up in a faulty aircraft -- the B-29 was already known at the time to have problems.

From this weaseling, one of the most carte blanche powers existing today was born. You know the old saying about absolute power corrupting absolutely? Yeah.

Much of this came to light from one of the children's research. Interestingly, Judy Loether knew hardly anything of the lawsuit -- she was merely curious to find out what her father had been working on, what was so important that it had to remain utterly classified. She was incredibly disappointed to find nothing in the report, but even then, did not realize the full implication of what she had learned until she spoke with her mother about it.

Barry Siegel tells the full story in Claim of Privilege: A Mysterious Plane Crash, a Landmark Supreme Court Case, and the Rise of State Secrets.

I felt outraged after hearing about this. The avoidance of accountability has almost certainly begotten more of the same. How much has been veiled, not to protect the American people, but to hide covert activities that would shame us if they were brought to light? Discretion, or deceit?

I'm still angry enough about this that I'm not writing about it or explaining it very coherently. I swear, after listening to the program, I'd like to see the precedent overturned and every legal use of it examined by a judge in private chambers just so that someone outside the bubble knows.

The sheer wrongness of this ... the sheer injustice.

Heck, quit reading. Go here, click Full Episode, and listen to the segment that starts at about 29:20.

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