Keep This Secret

     I’m getting old so I forget things.
     At least I think I do. I don’t remember.
     So I had to stop after reading the first sentence of a lawsuit filed in Federal Court in Los Angeles last week on behalf of an outfit called Americans for Prosperity Foundation.
     Here’s the sentence: “The First Amendment grants individuals who donate to private advocacy organizations the right to remain anonymous lest public disfavor and harassment chill their speech.”
     It does? Maybe I don’t remember what’s in the First Amendment.
     So I had to look it up. This is the entire First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
     Where’s the Right to Remain Anonymous clause?
     I must be missing something. Let me go back to reading the lawsuit …
     It turns out that the plaintiff is a right-wing group, aka “a nonprofit that promotes limited government and free markets (whose) views are not universally popular.”
     The suit says the group has to guard the identities of donors to assure their safety, and that “grotesque threats” have been made against “known associates” of the founders.
     “More mundane threats abound too, including boycotts, firings, and public shaming,” said the complaint.
     Pause for a moment to reflect on the irony of conservatives complaining about threats of boycotts, firings and public shaming.
     Reflect also on the irony of a right-wing organization reading something into the Constitution that isn’t exactly explicitly there.
     Now stop laughing. This is serious.
     After all, isn’t secrecy what democracy is all about?
     How do you expect to run a torture program if everyone knows about it?
     How do you expect journalists to do their jobs if they can’t keep secret sources who rat out government programs that are supposed to be secret?
     How do you expect the government to do its job without keeping secrets and forcing journalist not to keep secrets?
     How are you supposed to make an election come out the way you want it if you can’t keep your funding sources secret?
     How are you supposed to keep your tax-free status if you have to reveal what you do with your money?
     How do you run an intelligence program without keeping its existence secret but expose an intelligence program that wreaks havoc?
     We need to know stuff.
     And we don’t need other people to know stuff.
     Now I know the easy answer is just to stay off Facebook, but we can’t solve every problem that way. Things get out of hand on Twitter too.
     The obvious solution is that we need to know bad things but not know good things.
     How do we tell which is which?
     Secrecy Court.
     Whenever there’s a dispute over whether something should be a secret, it should be tried in a court that specializes in secrecy.
     Whether filings and proceedings in these cases should be open to the public would be determined by a Special Mystery Master whose identity will be revealed annually in a special New Year’s Day television special open to commercial sponsorship by corporations and special interest groups whose identities may or may not be revealed depending on the roll of gigantic dice at the beginning of the program.
     Write your legislators to demand this.
     Anonymously.

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