Worth a Look: Secrecy as Fraud (2002)

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Secrecy: The Nation’s Favored Fraud

Pierre Tristam

Published on Tuesday, November 26, 2002 by the Daytona Beach News-Journal (Florida)

If there is any doubt at all that the terrorists have won – that they have managed with a single day’s freakish hits to revamp the most open society on earth into an emerging police state where suspicion and secrecy are the twin watch-towers of government and cowering and conforming the prevailing instincts of an allegedly free press or an even more alleged political opposition – then last week’s creation of the Department of Homeland Security should put all such doubts to rest.

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Secrecy is national security’s favored fraud. With rare exceptions, it harms the public interest more than it protects it. Keeping America’s atom bomb secret may have been a good idea, but even that failed. Keeping the Pentagon Papers secret, the government’s own most damning evidence that the Vietnam War was a known failure even in the early 1960s, needlessly prolonged a needless war at the cost of thousands of American lives (and perhaps a million Vietnamese). Designed around the same principle of prescribing what Americans should and should not know, the new department will incubate just such secrets, covering up what should be known at the risk of prolonging what shouldn’t be happening. Substitute Main Street for rice paddies and what’s ahead is less reassuring because of the department’s existence.

Phi Beta Iota: We testified to the Moynihan Commission, and all of our life’s work in the world of secrecy confirms the views of Rodney McDaniel, thenExecutive Secretary of the National Security Council: 90% (we say 80%) of secrecy is bureaucratic turf control (and avoidance of accountability), only 10% (we say 20%) is legitimate portection of sensitive information.