Everybody loves secrets.
The youngest of children intuitively understand the power of knowledge known but not shared with others. We hold them close because they make us feel special. Everyone loves to be in the loop and no one likes to be the last to know.
Everyone also loves secrets spilled for the whole world to see, so long as it's not any of their own.
The entire summer has been filled with secrets that have tumbled into the light of day.
Nigel Wright, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's chief of staff, resigned after it was discovered he had secretly given Senator Mike Duffy money to repay the government for some expenses he had improperly claimed. Those expenses and the expenses claims by fellow senators Patrick Brazeau, Mac Harb and Pamela Wallin were also secrets until reviews of these claims found numerous problems. All of this led the Auditor-General to announce last week an examination of all expense claims by all senators.
The recent flow of blown secrets from south of the border, along with the resulting drama and intrigue, has been strong and steady.
Edward Snowden is now hiding out somewhere in Russia, after the systems analyst for a contractor for the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency leaked extensive details of several top-secret surveillance projects to the Guardian newspaper in the U.K. Snowden revealed that the United States and United Kingdom governments were conducting extensive phone and Internet monitoring of their own citizens. If American authorities ever get their hands on him, Snowden will likely be charged with espionage and could even be charged with treason.
Earlier this week, army soldier Bradley Manning was handed a 35-year sentence for disclosing more than 700,000 classified battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan to WikiLeaks, an anti-secrecy organization that published the papers online and had also helped Snowden escape to Russia from Hong Kong. Manning's actual jail term could be just seven years, if he is a model prisoner and is credited for the three years he's already been held prisoner.
Manning was found guilty of espionage but was acquitted of aiding the enemy, a charge which could have landed him a life sentence without parole.
According to the Associated Press, Manning's sentence is the harshest ever handed out to an American for leaking state secrets to the news media. The news agency also pointed out that the Barack Obama administration has set a new standard for cracking down on security leaks. Before 2008, only three citizens in U.S. history had ever been charged with revealing government secrets to news outlets. Obama has charged seven people after just four-and-a-half years in office.
Safe to say Snowden and Manning shouldn't be expecting a White House Christmas card with a coupon for a presidential pardon inside while Obama sits behind the desk in the Oval Office.
But Obama shouldn't be judged too harshly yet. As Tim Weiner points out in his excellent book Enemies: The History of the FBI, it was Franklin Delano Roosevelt who blazed the modern trail for the American government spying on its own people, setting loose legendary FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover on a secret and illegal campaign of intelligence gathering on citizens who weren't suspected of committing or even planning to commit a crime.
Perhaps Obama can turn to Richard Nixon for inspiration. Although clandestine secrets led to the destruction of Nixon's presidency, some secrets survived. On Wednesday, more than 40 years after it was recorded, a conversation Nixon taped with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev was released.
While that may be of minor interest to Cold War historians, the really interesting thing about the secret Nixon tapes is that hundreds of hours of the recordings remain sealed for national security and privacy reasons.
Even Nixon still has secrets, four decades later.
But there's the irony, of course. Not only is Obama fighting hard to crack down on anyone with the audacity to reveal secrets from his administration, he's even guarding Tricky Dick's secrets.
The reasons why, alas, are also secret.