Government Secrecy

February 11, 2011 • Volume 21, Issue 6
Does greater openness threaten national security?
By Alex Kingsbury


WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (AFP/Getty Images/Fabrice Coffrini)
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, here at a conference in Geneva last November, is fighting extradition to Sweden to face sexual misconduct charges. Meanwhile, the U.S. government is investigating his controversial website, which continues to disclose classified information. (AFP/Getty Images/Fabrice Coffrini)

The online disclosure of thousands of classified diplomatic, military and intelligence documents by the shadowy Internet site WikiLeaks has dramatically intensified the debate over government secrecy. Open-government advocates argue that federal agencies, including the CIA, keep too much information from the public, undermining the ability of citizens to keep a check on official wrongdoing. Secrecy supporters argue that modern technology gives far too many people access to sensitive information that could threaten the nation's welfare if released. The Obama administration is taking steps to open more of the government's business to public scrutiny, but disclosure advocates say President Obama needs to do even more. Meanwhile, lawmakers, intelligence officials and secrecy experts are debating whether the Espionage Act of 1917, which prohibits the “willful” disclosure of “information relating to the national defense,” needs to be updated.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Government Secrecy
Feb. 11, 2011  Government Secrecy
Oct. 23, 2009  Conspiracy Theories
Dec. 02, 2005  Government Secrecy
Jan. 16, 1987  National Security Council
Sep. 20, 1985  Protecting America's Secrets
Feb. 16, 1979  Freedom of Information Act: A Reappraisal
Aug. 18, 1971  Secrecy in Government
Aug. 18, 1971  Secrecy in Government
Feb. 07, 1968  Credibility Gaps and the Presidency
Aug. 07, 1957  Secrecy and Security
Dec. 21, 1955  Secrecy in Government
Feb. 23, 1955  Security Risks and the Public Safety
Jun. 24, 1953  Access to Official Information
Feb. 25, 1948  Protection of Official Secrets
Jan. 29, 1929  Secret Sessions of the Senate
Military Intelligence