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For as long as rulers have ruled, they have tried to monopolize and control information. The institution of secrecy is as old as the state. But as new media for communication have appeared, it has become more difficult to control the flow of information, just as the rise of democracy as an ideal has made it harder to justify the institution of secrecy. The articles that follow consider the recurring limits to public knowledge of government policies in a perspective that is specifically American and mainly contemporary.