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January 30, 2023

Why do we care about fugitive secret documents? Let them run free!

Milt Policzer

By Milt Policzer

Courthouse News columnist; racehorse owner and breeder; one of those guys who always got picked last.

If you’re ancient and a knee-jerk lefty like me, you’re probably shaking your head (assuming you still have some muscle control) over all the people complaining about the escape of secret documents to Florida resorts, garages and Politico.

I say, “Let them be free! Run, classified documents, run! Let yourself be read by everyone.”

OK, Boomer, calm down, you may be thinking. Have you taken your meds?

Well, not yet today, but that doesn’t matter. The reason I’m not concerned about secret files and premature Supreme Court rulings is that in the distant past what we were concerned about was too much classification. The government kept doing things in secret — things we should have known about.

Consider, for example, the secrets behind the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution or the Contra arms or the lack of WMDs. If you have no idea what those are, you’re not old and you should do some reading.

The point is that if we’d known about stuff, we’d have disapproved and maybe bad things wouldn’t have happened. It’s kind of hard to vote intelligently in a supposed democracy when you don’t know what’s really going on.

So the only problem I have with Trump-property and Corvette-adjacent documents is that they weren’t shared with the rest of us. No one likes a hoarder.

The Supreme Court Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Org. ruling leak is a little more nuanced. After all, it wasn’t really a secret. What we eventually got from the court was exactly what leaked. It was a spoiler, not a key to national security.

And yet, for some reason, there was a huge brouhaha and an expensive unproductive investigation about a ruling leak.

Why aren’t we leaking all Supreme Court ruling drafts?

Justices are going to claim they shouldn’t be influenced by public opinion, but do you really think most of them care about public opinion?

There would be a whole lot more interest in the law if we could all argue along with them. We should televise their chambers debates, too.

Would justices be constrained about their arguments if that happened?

Yep. Might be a good thing.

I should note here that the report from the office of the marshal of the Supreme Court creates its own secret — an “Annex A” with recommendations that are “not being released to the public because doing so could unwisely expose Court operations and information to potential bad actors.”

Bad actors? Like Steven Seagal? What does this mean?

What would a bad actor do at the Supreme Court? Hide video cameras in the bathrooms?

I assume one of the recommendations is not talking to Steven Seagal.

There’s also this tantalizing bit toward the end of the report: “The investigative team received outside assistance with a fingerprint analysis of an item relevant to the investigation. That analysis found viable fingerprints but no matches to any fingerprints of interest.”

Were there fingerprints of disinterest?

What kind of “item” could this possibly be?

My guess is that it was the candlestick they found in the library.

Check your storage spaces. Are any of you as nervous about this as I am? Classified documents could turn up anywhere.

If you’ve seen my garage, you know why I’m worried.

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