Review: Report of the Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy

5 Star, Commissions, Democracy, Intelligence (Government/Secret), Secrecy & Politics of Secrecy

The Single Best Examination of Secrecy Costs, October 16, 2008

Daniel Patrick Moynihan

I testified to this Commission, both publicly and also in a private session in the office of Daniel Patrick Moynihan (RIP).

This is the single best non-partisan overview of the costs of unnessary secrecy, as well as the imperatives of providing proper definition and protection of necessary secrets.

I note with appreciation that my testimony led him to include the words “open source” in his cover letter of transmittal to the White House.

See also:
Nation of Secrets: The Threat to Democracy and the American Way of Life
Secrecy: The American Experience
Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers

For a sense of the logical implementation of the findings of this Commission, see THE SMART NATION ACT: Public Intelligence in the Public Interest.

For a sense of how we must radically alter the “closed circle” of national intelligence to embrace the entire Nation and indeed the Whole Earth, see Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace.

Review: Secrecy–The American Experience

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

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

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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Reference: 1996 Testimony to Moynihan Commisson

Hill Letters & Testimony, Memoranda, Secrecy & Politics of Secrecy

As Presented:

OSS1997-03-03 Secrecy Primer Moynihan Commission

The protection of “sources & methods” is a political gambit, not a legitimate claim for immunity.  This testimony to the Moynihan Commission on Secrecy lays out the hypocricy in detail.

See Also:

OSS1997-03-02 Secrecy Seminar

1992 E3i: Ethics, Ecology, Evolution, & intelligence


Worth a Look: Books on Government Secrecy