Monday, March 14, 2005

When Can Secrecy Harm You?

In today’s USATODAY an Op/Ed piece points out a trend that should have everyone’s attention. “In 2004, the government created 16 million new secrets, 75% more than in the year ending in September 2001. Sixteen million! And each new ‘classification decision’ can involve many documents.

What you don’t know can hurt you. That’s why the nation agreed to, and made into law the Freedom of Information Act. This gave us protection against the unknown from our own government and made it possible for us to vote with greater wisdom.

Fear is the usual reason information flow is slowed or stopped. We’ve been living in an environment of fear now since 9/11, and in our efforts to protect ourselves we may very well have hurt ourselves. In order to be a viable democracy we must have an informed population. They must be able to gather their information from any and all sources or abuses will happen.

Of course adjustments need to be made. That’s almost always true. But, when you couple national fear with a tendency toward secrecy by culture, there can be major problems. When things happen in our government that we are not allowed to know about you can bet the potential is there for our harm.

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