America's Newfound Love of Secrecy
Really good Washington Post article on secrecy:
But the notion that information is more credible because it’s secret is increasingly unfounded. In fact, secret information is often more suspect because it hasn’t been subjected to open debate. Those with their own agendas can game the system, over-classifying or stove-piping self-serving intelligence to shield it from scrutiny. Those who cherry-picked intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war could ignore anything that contradicted it. Even now, some members of Congress tell me that they avoid reading classified reports for fear that if they do, the edicts of secrecy will bar them from discussing vital public issues.
Real secrets—blueprints for nuclear weapons, specific troop movements, the identities of covert operatives in the field—deserve to be safeguarded. But when secrecy is abused, the result is a dangerous disdain that leads to officials exploiting secrecy for short-term advantage (think of the Valerie Plame affair or the White House leaking selected portions of National Intelligence Estimates to bolster flagging support for the Iraq war). Then disregard for the real need for secrecy spreads to the public. WhosaRat.com reveals the names of government witnesses in criminal cases. Other Web sites seek to out covert operatives or to post sensitive security documents online.
Back in 2002 I wrote about the relationship between secrecy and security.