A few thoughts:
1) You should make clear the difference between three time domains. in the short and immediate term, members of the Professional Protector Caste (PPC) have many and diverse needs for tactical secrecy, from police stake-outs of criminals to confidential de-briefings of defectors, to clandestine military or intelligence operations. Critics are right to worry about the human-nature tendency to use secrecy to cover nefarious activities, or to simply evade accountability for errors. But this worry is substantially eased if tactical secrets carry time limits. Only the most sensitive matters should qualify for an inherently limited number of very long term or indefinite secret classifications and those should bear an actual financial cost to the agency in question, making it a rare and special recourse.
This would go hand in hand with the vital importance of the longer time scale. Over the course of years and decades, one fact rises paramount above all others. The western, “pax Americana” civilization approach to governance… with its emphasis on individual liberties and sovereignty, science, negotiation and mixed-competitive problem solving tools… is the only one that systematically benefits from a general secular trend toward ever-increasing transparency and openness in the world.
In sharp contrast, every rival system, from communism to islamic fundamentalism to Sino-mercantilist state capitalism, all suffer near-lethal allergic reactions to the application of light.
This is not to say that doses of transparency aren’t – at times – excruciatingly inconvenient to western leaders or to members of the PPC . But the convenience of leaders is not the core desideratum of our civilization. Rather, we depend on the steady revelation and correction of errors that results in steadily improving knowledge, products and policies, a process that leader-centered societies never mastered, across 6000 years. Hence, for example, the infamous WkiLeaks data spills (which were a mere foretaste of the tsunamis of leakage we face in future years) caused the USG a few minor embarrassments, but overall they helped quench any anti-American themes in the Arab Spring, by adding to US credibility at a critical time.
The key point here is that the overall and general secular trend toward a more open and transparent world absolutely and inarguably benefits our overall type of society and severely hampers or undermines every rival.
This central fact combines with another one – that other types of society are better at secret behaviors and taking advantage of opacity than we are.
Given all of this, the conclusion is obvious. Even when members of the PPC must engage in covert/secret activities in the short term, these secretive activities should nevertheless be performed in service of the one overall, general trend that ensures victory for our way of life. A more open world. If this strategic emphasis is maintained, then tactical secrecy can continue to serve a useful and justifiable function.
2) The inevitability of citizen access to advanced tools for seeing, information collation, analytics and sharing mean that members of the PPC can only choose to embrace the trend and utilize “crowd-sourcing” in their future activities. It should be noted that this will also add robustness to our general response systems and is in keeping with American traditions.
Especially noteworthy: every single action that actually worked on 9/11 was taken by citizens and not by members of the PPC. That humbling reminder of our limitations – and the potential for a smart-resilient citizenry to step in when needed – should be kept in mind day-in, day-out.
3) Care to see a glimpse of the future of crowd-sourced intelligence? A complete novella “The Smartest Mob” offers a full adventure-excerpt from David Brin’s exciting new novel EXISTENCE. A news reporter finds herself aboard a passenger Zeppelin that might – perhaps – have been turned into a weapon of terror. No one will listen – not the government or the Zep company. No one, that is, except a random band of amateurs, scattered around the globe.
4) More and more we are learning what every human society learned across 6000 years… that what benefits the top elites is not necessarily what benefits the civilization’s overall health. Nowhere is this more clear than in the vanishing of the top-most tax base as top aristocrats use both secrecy and manipulated rules to make themselves exempt… exactly the situation that reigned in France, in 1789.
Some countries, notably Germany, are aggressively attacking banking secrecy. If this notion spreads worldwide, we may see a movement to require that all ownership be openly declared, with only two layers between any physical thing and an actual human being. This act of transparency, while surficially radical, is not severe in any classic left-right sense. In and of itself it does not mean confiscation. Tax rates are still subject to political process and in the US they have steadily moved downward, to their lowest point in 80 years.
Ownership transparency would only mean one thing… that all players know what’s what and who owns what, exactly the situation prescribed by Adam Smith.