Classification Games: Can The Cat Be Put Back In The Bag?
The Justice Department has taken the unusual step of retroactively classifying information it gave to Congress nearly two years ago regarding a former F.B.I. translator who charged that the bureau had missed critical terrorist warnings, officials said Wednesday.The Justice Department. Hmmmm, the department of which Ms. Edmonds, the FBI translator, was so critical. Okay, then. No problem, no conflict.
Law enforcement officials say the secrecy surrounding the translator, Sibel Edmonds, is essential to protecting information that could reveal intelligence-gathering operations. But some members of Congress and Congressional aides said they were troubled by the move, which comes as critics have accused the Bush administration of excessive secrecy.
'What the F.B.I. is up to here is ludicrous,' Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, said in an interview. 'To classify something that's already been out in the public domain, what do you accomplish? It does harm to transparency in government, and it looks like an attempt to cover up the F.B.I.'s problems in translating intelligence.
"Any staffer who attended those briefings, or who learns about those briefings, should be aware that the F.B.I. now considers the information classified and should therefore avoid further dissemination,'' the Judiciary Committee memorandum said.
An F.B.I. official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the decision to classify the material was made by the Justice Department, which oversees the bureau. The Justice Department declined to comment on Wednesday.