Sanford J. Ungar, author of The Papers & The Papers: An Account of the Legal and Political Battle Over the Pentagon Papers, which won a George Polk Award in 1972, president of Goucher College in Baltimore, and a member of the US Public Interest Declassification Board, writes in the current CJR about overclassification of government information.
- Unnecessary Secrets, Opening government, from Ellsberg to Manning, By Sanford J. Ungar, Columbia Journalism Review, (March / April 2011).
Absent, at least from the government’s public statements and actions, is any consideration of an obvious underlying problem: that the obsessive over-classification of US official information has reached a point where it is impossible to know with confidence what truly deserves to be kept secret and how that can be done effectively. The government’s instinct to protect so many “secrets” also hinders democracy by keeping vital information from the public.
As it happens, the WikiLeaks drama unfolds as we approach the fortieth anniversary of the publication of the Pentagon Papers, and it is useful to think about secrets through that prism.