The Insecurity of Secrecy
Good essay—”The Staggering Cost of Playing it ‘Safe’“—about the political motivations for terrorist security policy.
Senator Barbara Boxer has led an effort to at least put together a public database of ash storage sites so that people can judge the risk to the areas where they live. However, even this effort has been blocked not by coal companies or utilities, but by the DHS. How could it possibly be a national security interest to cover up the location of material that’s “not toxic or anything?” It’s not. In fact, even if the ash turns out to be as bad as its worst critics fear, blocking the database is far more dangerous than revealing the location of these sites. Not only has there not been any threat against these sites by terrorists, and no workable scenario by which they might cause a problem, coal slurry impoundments are already failing with regularity, dousing parts of America with millions of gallons of this material. It doesn’t take terrorists to make this happen.
Blocking the release of this information doesn’t protect the citizens of the United States in any way. It’s just another example of the same creeping secrecy that makes cities more difficult to manage because of secrecy over facilities. The same creeping secrecy that “blurs” national monuments from images and puts intentional gaps in public information. The same creeping secrecy that increasingly elevates the most unlikely attack—the shoe bombers of the world—above our right to know what’s going on around us so that we can make informed decisions. The same secrecy that defends torturers.