Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Culture of Secrecy

There is a clear need for some kinds of secrecy and our government should provide the safety that secrecy can give us. But, when the culture of secrecy is embedded in the administration we have and you add a war to it, there are huge potential problems.

Rick Blum writes a story which appears in the Provo, Utah Daily Herald. His lead paragraph spells out the problem: "Last year our government spent $ 6.5 billion -- or for every woman, man and child in the United States -- to classify and secure its millions of accumulated secrets. That is 60 percent more than it spent just two years before, and the most it has spent on secrecy for at least the past decade -- not even counting the cost of keeping the CIA's extensive records secret. Sorry, the CIA keeps that figure classified."

Blum's closing paragraph: "Openness, not secrecy, makes our democracy and economy strong. Information in the right hands can produce medical breakthroughs, advance technology, apprehend criminals, and make us safer, healthier and more productive. At best, excessive secrecy is an abuse of the fundamental trust that the public places in government. At worst, it puts uncounted lives and communities at risk, and wastes billions of taxpayers' dollars."

Democracy can and does flourish in a society that is open. One of the things we often say of other countries is that they need to have a free and open discussion of ideas. The culture I would prefer is one of openness.

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