When the guys doing the talking are from the federal government, “trust us” just doesn’t carry the clout the government likely wishes it did.
Long before Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the National Security Agency’s massively intrusive domestic spying program — which was approved and vetted by Congress — the feds’ truthfulness was not all that widely regarded. In fact, lying to the people has at times been as all-American as apple pie.
In 1898 President McKinley used the claim that the USS Maine had been blown up in Havana Harbor by the Spanish as a justification to launch the Spanish-American war. In 1964 we had President Lyndon Johnson and the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. And who can forget the George W. Bush administration and Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction?
So it’s not the least bit surprising that Leelanau County residents are possibly not convinced that they were perfectly safe when about 60 federal agents, some wearing hazmat suits, descended on homes in Suttons Bay and Leland Township in October and removed and later blew up ... something.
The feds won’t say what that something was, but they’ve been quick to reassure residents they were safe. Sure, and that’s why agents were wearing hazmat suits and then blew up whatever it was they found.
There are times when the government, from local police to the Pentagon, is justified in lying — or at least not telling the whole truth — to the people they’re sworn to protect. Most often that comes in the form of not being exhaustively truthful. You can say you’re looking for a suspect without saying you think he’s holed up at his girlfriend’s house at XXX address.
But there has to be some respect involved. The folks in Suttons Bay don’t need to know precisely what it was the feds were looking for. But they’re certainly entitled to know if it was chemical, nuclear or biological in nature and that the feds removed all of the dangerous materials and destroyed them.
Refusing to say anything at all simply opens the door to speculation and rumors — and does nothing for the government’s already frayed credibility.
And who are they keeping this a secret from, anyway? The supposed bad guys know what they had, the people they were possibly working with know what was there, the feds who removed and disposed of the stuff certainly know.
The only people who don’t know are the ones who had the most to lose. But they’re just citizens.
Not everything can be a top secret or, eventually, nothing is top secret. Give residents a little credit that they won’t fly into a blind panic if they know the truth, and some respect for their concerns.
Remember the Maine.