Robert Jensen of the University of TexasâÄô School of Journalism says, âÄúAs long as the United States is an empire, government officials will try to keep the public in the dark about the nature of the empire.âÄù Given the 865 military bases abroad, the euphemistic âÄúOverseas Contingency OperationsâÄù and the military strategy of âÄúfull-spectrum dominanceâÄù the United States oversees, our country is without a doubt the global hegemon of the day. Given the us-versus-them framework propagated by our politicians and mainstream media outlets alike to simplify or outright falsify the nature of our imperial ambitions, the powers that be are without a doubt attempting to keep the U.S. citizenry out of the know. The most infamous tactic governments use to alter the public mind in their favor is propaganda. In America, where the synergy and consolidation of private interests dominate both the medium and message of information dissemination, the existence of propaganda is blatantly visible. However, the empire has another powerful, much less discussed tool in its arsenal: censorship. Upon understanding that, as Jensen states, âÄúexcessive secrecy is an intrinsic feature of the concentrations of power necessary to run an empire,âÄù it should come as no surprise that the United States implements censorship tactics. In the 21st century, one of the most controversial methods of free-speech suppression in America has been the state secrets privilege. Since the seminal case of United States v. Reynolds in 1953, the government has, in theory, invoked the state secrets privilege in civil litigation to prevent the courts from disclosing information that might threaten national security. In the ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court proclaimed that the privilege âÄúis not to be lightly invoked.âÄù From 1953 until Sept. 11, 2001, the government upheld that recommendation. Yet with the onset of the âÄúWar on Terror,âÄù the privilege was invoked 22 times between 2001 and 2005 (in comparison to the 55 times that it was put into effect during the 48-year span prior to Sept. 11). Instead of applying the privilege just for issues of national security, the Bush administration used the rule to cover its tracks, dismissing entire cases in response to accusations of criminal conduct in the government. Take, for example, the case of Edmonds v. Department of Justice. Although you may not have heard of Sibel Edmonds, the plaintiff of the case, she was once described by the ACLU as âÄúthe most gagged person in the history of the United States.âÄù Edmonds worked for the FBI as a translator and became a whistleblower after being fired for reporting misconduct in the agency. She is regarded by many to be a reputable source, having been publicly backed by Senate Judiciary Committee members Pat Leahy, D-Vt., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and appraised in a Department of Justice inspector general report that asserted her allegations are âÄúcredible,âÄù âÄúserious,âÄù and âÄúwarrant a thorough and careful review by the FBI.âÄù Despite such authoritative support âÄî or most likely because of it âÄî Sibel Edmonds was silenced. Attorney General John Ashcroft invoked the state secrets privilege for her case and issued gag orders upon Edmonds, which rendered her mute. However, after years in obligatory silence, Edmonds was finally allowed to provide a deposition under oath in August 2009. This rare reversal offers us a glimpse of what the government might be trying to hide from the public eye through censorship practices like the state secrets privilege. In the November issue of Pat BuchananâÄôs The American Conservative, Edmonds asserted that factions of the U.S. government continued relations with the Mujahedeen throughout the 1990s and beyond, that the U.S. bureaucratic system is plagued with foreign espionage and that factions of the U.S. government have been involved in drug-trafficking schemes in Central Asia in recent years. ItâÄôs little wonder that Daniel Ellsberg has proclaimed that EdmondsâÄô information is âÄúfar more explosive than the Pentagon Papers.âÄù If committees with real subpoena power were established to investigate these crimes of apparent treason, the political landscape could be seriously altered. Yet, despite campaigning against the âÄúsecrecy that dominates government actions,âÄù President Barack Obama and his administration have embraced the clandestine Bush status quo and continue to invoke the state secrets privilege. Public records lawsuits filed against the government have actually increased in number since Obama took office last year. But, what else are we to expect? Regardless of who is at the helm, the United States will rule as an empire. As George Orwell foresaw in âÄú1984,âÄù in a state of empire, where war is peace, ignorance is strength. The column was originally written by Calvin Sloan for The Daily Texan at the University of Texas, Austin.