While it is easy for us to take government openness for granted and assume that government secrecy is an aberration, a new book that examines government secrecy world-wide warns us of dangers that exist today and identifies problems that we can see in the United States. From the publisher:
Roberts goes further than the popular view that secrecy is simply a problem of selfish bureaucrats trying to hide embarrassing information by showing how such powerful trends as privatization, globalization, and the “networking” of security agencies are complicating the fight against secrecy.
The book is Blacked Out: Government Secrecy in the Information Age by Alasdair Roberts of the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, New York, Cambridge University Press (January 2006, 334 pages).
We know about privatization of government information and this week we saw more about networking of security agencies when Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte submitted to Congress the Information Sharing Environment Implementation Plan (November 2006). This plan explicitly calls for “policies, processes, protocols and technology that enable the sharing of [“terrorist related”] information among federal, state, local, tribal and private sector entities, as well as our foreign partners.” While this may seem a reasonable proposal in the abstract, it has two problems: First, it is not clear that the “terrorist related information” will always be information about terrorists; it may often be massive amounts of information on all citizens, which the government hopes to use to identify terrorists. Second, there is no proposal for sharing information with the public; that implies that this information will be shared and kept secretly — exactly what Roberts discusses in his book.
Thanks to Secrecy News for the pointer to this book!