Abstract

As a nation, we seem to be of two minds about secrecy. We know that government secrecy is incompatible with democratic decision-making in obvious ways. Yet there is a near-universal consensus that some measure of secrecy is justified and necessary to protect authorized national security activities. Reconciling these conflicting interests is an ongoing challenge. In recent years, a large and growing number of public interest organizations and professional societies have turned their attention to government secrecy, identifying it as an obstacle to achieving their own objectives. These professionally and politically diverse groups are united by the perception that secrecy has escalated to the point of dysfunction. On that point, there is not much disagreement. One basic premise of the critics of government secrecy is that too much information gets classified and withheld from the public in the name of national security, and that this has undesirable effects on public policy and on public discourse. But a second basic premise is that it is possible to do something about that. These organizations, including my own, do not simply want to protest against improper secrecy but to correct it. And to a remarkable extent, the secrecy system lends itself to such corrective efforts through various mechanisms that will be described below.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-768X
Print ISSN
0037-783X
Pages
pp. 839-852
Launched on MUSE
2014-04-30
Open Access
No
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