Editorials: Early campaigning; and Single standards about classified documents

At the cathedral in Anton, PRD leaders paid their respects to the Cristo Santo de Esquipulas and, as best they could, tried to show their Christian devotion and affinity to the Roman Catholic hierarchy. The Martinelistas and Rómulo Roux were also working Anton for the festival. Photo from Gaby Carrizo’s Twitter feed.

The sordid motions of early campaigning

The Electoral Tribunal was ADAMANT. No political campaigning for the 2024 elections at the Thousand Polleras Parade in Las Tablas. This time, no open distribution of booze or gifts, no campaign literature to be passed out. But politicians were there to be seen and – they hope – become associated with some Panamanian cultural traditions.

Overlapping in time, more or less the same thing played out in Anton for the patron saint’s celebration. A bit different, there was the attempt to associate political leaders and would-be leaders with God. It’s hard to say which sort of deceit is more harmful – the damage to religion when clergy or the faithful swallow the lures, or the damage to the public interest when politicians believe their own propaganda and proceed to play God when in public office.

Go through the ancient sacred texts of any religion that has stood the test of time and you will find political value judgments in them. Look at the history of human progress – the abolition of slavery, national and international laws about the humane treatment of prisoners, the global notions that aggressive wars of conquest and genocide are crimes against all humanity – and you will notice that religious people were deeply involved in the movements for these things.

However, let’s not buy into notions that God approves oppression, or transactional politics, or the assertion of one tribe’s innate superiority over another. And let’s not hear ANY of that stuff from secular public authorities.


take him away
We can immediately dispense with any and all notions that the Republican-led US House of Representatives has any commitment to the truth. Which observation, however, gets nobody else off of the hook – politicians, media people or voters. Public domain photos in a montage by Eric Jackson.

The facts will vary, but let’s have single standards

Of course Joe Biden’s private possession of classified documents should be investigated, both by Congress and by a special prosecutor. The House is committed to destruction and deceit these days, but the Senate should take up these matters and go much farther afield into the whole classification system and justice for those who have been caught up in it.

Once upon a time, somebody came to The Panama News with a tale about how a certain business that had just opened in Panama city was a front for a DEA sting. Seemed like a true story, but one that could not be verified by US government sources, who won’t talk to the press about such things.

Beyond ambitions to get a titillating scoop, beyond journalistic ethics about verifying the facts, beyond the public right to know about foreign government operations on Panamanian soil, there are other duties owed, regardless of nationality or political allegiance. Publish a tale like that and the people involved would have their lives placed at risk. Not out of love for the DEA, nor loyalty to the US State Department, this editor sent a note to the ambassador at the time, warning that if the story was true then word was on the street which could get US agents killed. No “Is it true?” questions or any of that – making a diplomat squirm while evading really isn’t part of journalism even if it might play well on Fox. Turns out that business shut down rather immediately. No act of courage here. It’s as if a lawyer finds out that a client is en route to killing somone, and immediately has the decency to warn said someone. It’s as if, annoyed by the Panama Canal Authority’s sleazy information control games as an editor might be, refraining from publishing things about the locations of canal security cameras were such information to be learned.

There are hierarchies of duty. One of which is not to be a repeater for propaganda in favor of war crimes. One of which is to call out a foreign policy based on lies when that stuff becomes topical in the news. One of which is to defend freedom of the press, and freedom of information unless there is a strong countervailing interest in a particular situation.

But, but… ESPIONAGE! As in the antique World War I Espionage Act, that gets into classification of information and its breaches.

The Panama News is for dropping US espionage charges against Julian Assange and retroactively pardoning Reality Winner. The latter was put in the difficult position of defending the United States and her oath to defend the US Constitution and other oaths to keep classified documents secret. She did the right thing and warned about Vladimir Putin’s meddling in US elections – and then saw some very creepy Democrat activists try to raise a hue and cry about Donald Trump’s “treason” (which that never was) while not saying a word in Winner’s defense.

Can we cut out the spy thriller stuff, the hyper-partisan propaganda and the double standards? Donald Trump and Joe Biden are both under investigation for improper possession of classified government documents. Good prosecutors’ investigations will go way beyond those simple things and into the nature of those documents and who they were used or intended to be used. Cooperation versus obstruction, candor versus deceit, acknowledgment versus derision of the authority of the law – all of these circumstances would be proper lines of inquiry.

Can senators recognize that laws are not immutable, that needs change with time, that when there is a history of abuses it becomes a proper legislative purpose to correct those abuses?

There is something awry with the US document classification system and it behooves certain public officials to look into it. With not just one single standard, but a series of them. A single standard for handling secret documents. A single standard for obstruction of justice. A single standard that distinguishes unintended mistakes from intentional conduct. A single standard that recognizes the democratic right of an electorate to make informed choices to be properly balanced against official secrecy. A single standard that impedes the use of classification as a cover for criminal activity by people in high places.

Yes, investigate Joe Biden. Investigate Donald Trump. Review the entire classification system. Do these things without telling enemies of the United States where to plant their bombs. Ask and answer questions with respect for people’s intelligence. Even if one party and the one house of Congress it dominates are dedicated to lies and obstruction.



Bear in mind…

Your path is at your feet whether you realize it or not.

Agnes Martin

When a foreign adversary knows that an American official has deceived or withheld vital information from our government, it creates a fundamental counterintelligence vulnerability that can render that official irreparably compromised.

Raja Krishnamoorthi

One who deceives will always find those who allow themselves to be deceived.

Niccolo Machiavelli


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