We Need Fewer Secrets

It’s not all that often that I’m in agreement with former President Jimmy Carter on controversial issues of public policy. I’m with him though, that “We Need Fewer Secrets.”

The U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) turns 40 tomorrow, the day we celebrate our independence. But this anniversary will not be a day of celebration for the right to information in our country. Our government leaders have become increasingly obsessed with secrecy. Obstructionist policies and deficient practices have ensured that many important public documents and official actions remain hidden from our view.

Now, I’m not sure that reform of FOIA is that answer so much as a cultural change that would make classification more difficult and perhaps a rapid sunsetting that would require overt action and explanation for keeping things classified. It’s undoubtedly the case, though, that our government has an institutional bias toward secrecy.

FILED UNDER: General, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Christopher says:

    James,

    Maybe you, Jimminy Carter, and the NYT can form a committee, and the govt. can turn over all classified info to it. The committee can then decide what should be kept secret and what should not be. Would that meet with your wishes?

    Oh wait…but you, Jimminy or the NYT aren’t the people’s elected representatives, are you? Darn, I guess that disqualifies you.

  2. Cernig says:

    James! YOU hate America too?

    No, seriously, the very fact that you can come under attack (comment above) for stating such a self-evident truth shows that the militant-right side of the fence is where the animals with BSE go to graze.

    If Bush stated he liked eating babies then by the next day they would all have their favourite recipes for BBQ Baby posted and be swearing they had always enjoyed ingesting infants.

    Regards, Cernig

  3. Christopher says:

    Cernig:

    Gosh, do you want to be on the committee, too?

  4. MrGone says:

    James, sorry, but why do you hate America? Please do not say ANYTHING against our beloved, our precious, or we will have to deal with you too. Maybe publish your address, phone number, how about where your kids go to school…

    Careful dude, we’re watching.

    “This message has been paid for by the Republican National Campaign Committee” and don’t you forget it!

  5. Cernig says:

    Christopher,

    What’s your favourite recipe for human baby flesh?

    The two questions are equivalent, since neither can be taken seriously.

    But thanks for playing “Strawman” with us tonight. I knew you would 🙂

    Regards, Cernig

  6. Anderson says:

    If Bush stated he liked eating babies then by the next day they would all have their favourite recipes for BBQ Baby posted and be swearing they had always enjoyed ingesting infants.

    Tom Tomorrow had a cartoon along those lines. “Satan is widely misunderstood!” “He sure is! All hail Satan!”

  7. The Heretik says:

    Who knew a discussion of secrecy could get so dark so quickly? Can I be like chairman of the committee to which the govt. hands secrets over?