Rep. Paul Quotes Classified Cable on House Floor

Last Wednesday, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) read brief excerpts from a classified U.S. State Department cable on the House floor. The cable was written in 1990 by U.S. Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie and described her conversation with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein shortly prior to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. It was released January 1 by WikiLeaks.

Since the cable specified that its “entire text” is classified secret, this means that by reading a passage or two from the document, Rep. Paul was technically publicizing classified information and introducing it into the Congressional Record.

This action was not nearly comparable in significance or audacity to Sen. Mike Gravel reading the Pentagon Papers into the public record in 1971. It would hardly be noteworthy at all except for the contrast it presents with current congressional guidance to avoid the material released by WikiLeaks altogether. The Senate Office of Security, for example, has directed that Senate employees should not even visit the WikiLeaks website, much less circulate its contents.

Like other members of the House of Representatives, Rep. Paul has taken an oath (under House Rule XXIII, clause 13) that “I will not disclose any classified information received in the course of my service with the House of Representatives, except as authorized by the House of Representatives or in accordance with its Rules.”

Presumably, Rep. Paul could say that he did not receive the classified cable “in the course of my service with the House of Representatives” and that it is therefore outside the scope of his oath.

“The secrecy of the [Glaspie cable] was designed to hide the truth from the American people and keep our government from being embarrassed,” Rep. Paul said, assigning malicious intent to the classification of the document.

But since many unembarrassing and uninformative documents are also classified, a better explanation might be that the application of classification controls today is indiscriminately broad, and that classification status is not a reliable indicator of sensitivity.

No Responses to “Rep. Paul Quotes Classified Cable on House Floor”

  1. C Ronk February 1, 2011 at 12:08 PM #

    The last two paragraphs both describe accurate aspects of the classification system, and government secrecy generally, but I still do not think that Secrecy News accords sufficient weight to the significance of the former phenomenon that Paul has pointed out, even if the motives underlying it may be present less frequently than the motives, or the absence of motives, underlying the latter.

  2. Carl Osgood February 1, 2011 at 2:04 PM #

    If this is the July 25, 1990 cable, then it’s no longer classified. I found it on the Declassified Documents Reference System, which I accessed at the Library of Congress before I was aware of the Wikileaks release. According to DDRS, it was declassified in 2003. I suspect there are many older documents in the Wikileaks dump that have, in fact, been declassified, since the entire collection is reported to go back to 1966.

  3. Marlyn Norton February 3, 2011 at 2:28 PM #

    I find it interesting that Rep. Paul chooses to automatically assign malicious intent to this action by Glaspie, her colleagues and superiors to classify the information contained in the cable. I would say that rather than choosing actively to keep secrets from the American people this presumably well-trained and intelligent individual. It’s almost as if Rep. Paul assumes that every government official is seeking to actively defraud people. I believe in many cases they are making informed decisions to classify information based on laws made by Congress and rules made by their own agencies which have been announced in the Federal Register and are well understood.

    I feel the government should be open, but I also assume that a certain amount of opacity is in order. This official–Glasbie was not only “doing what she was trained to do”, but she was making decisions that have consequences.

  4. neoCONslayer February 6, 2011 at 8:46 PM #

    I don’t think that Dr Paul was assigning malicious intent to April Glaspie’s conversation with Saddam Hussein. He was pointing out that, had this communication been made public at the time, it may have tempered our eagerness to start the first Iraq war.