Review: Secrecy–The American Experience

5 Star, Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), History, Information Society, Intelligence (Government/Secret), Secrecy & Politics of Secrecy

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5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary Contribution to National Sanity and Security,

May 31, 2001
The Honorable Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Senator Moynihan applies his intellect and his strong academic and historical bent to examine the U.S. experience with secrecy, beginning with its early distrust of ethnic minorities. He applies his social science frames of reference to discuss secrecy as a form of regulation and secrecy as a form of ritual, both ultimately resulting in a deepening of the inherent tendency of bureaucracy to create and keep secrets-secrecy as the cultural norm. His historical overview, current right up to 1998, is replete with documented examples of how secrecy may have facilitated selected national security decisions in the short-run, but in the long run these decisions were not only found to have been wrong for lack of accurate open information that was dismissed for being open, but also harmful to the democratic fabric, in that they tended to lead to conspiracy theories and other forms of public distancing from the federal government. He concludes: “The central fact is that we live today in an Information Age. Open sources give us the vast majority of what we need to know in order to make intelligent decisions. Decisions made by people at ease with disagreement and ambiguity and tentativeness. Decisions made by those who understand how to exploit the wealth and diversity of publicly available information, who no longer simply assume that clandestine collection-that is, ‘stealing secrets’-equals greater intelligence. Analysis, far more than secrecy, is the key to security….Secrecy is for losers.”
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