How Much Government Secrecy Is Really Necessary?

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6 Responses

  1. Dylan says:

    “It’s not just the courts, but the public and Congress who are often being too deferential.”

    Everyone disagrees with me, so obviously the system must be broken!

  2. Government Secrecy and Wiretaps

    I’d like to respond to Dan Solove’s article “How Much Government Secrecy Is Really Necessary” with the perspective of a veteran of the 1990s crypto wars, in which we fought the NSA for the practical right to build and use…

  3. Bruce says:

    Dan, your questioning of the legal authority annoys the President, which distracts him from the War on Terra, which aids the terrorists.

  4. Steve says:

    Maybe if the millions of folks living on Prozak and Zolof, the “It’s All Good” generation, WAKE UP this administration’s trampling of the Constitution will have him impeached. Right.

  5. geoff manne says:

    It’s naive to think the government “trustworthy,” and the issue is not appropriately about instrinsic trustworthiness at all. See public choice theory. And your question (“but should we?”) implies that we can tell ex ante when secrecy is desirable and when it’s not — and even more, that we can tell ex ante whether the broad conditions that enable government secrecy should be maintained (since it’s rarely a question of whether X should be kept secret, but really a question of whether, say, the president should have among his powers the power to do things secretly). Regardless of overblown and tired rhetoric like that you quote above, there is certainly a class of circumstances where, even though the government isn’t “trustworthy,” we must entrust it with the exercise of power, even recognizing that we can’t know ex ante whether we should. I think it quite likely that the recently-revealed NSA surveillance was illegal (but it isn’t necessarily for the reason most think — see this excellent post for the right analysis). But does that mean we have any good way of knowing whether we should tolerate the conditions that make such secrecy possible? Hardly. I’m never inclined to give much power to the government, and yet even I can’t say I know we should scale back in this regard just because we become aware of some abuse ex post. The statement that we’re all too deferential is not based on enough information, it seems to me, to be meaningful. Judge Posner in his recent Legal Affairs debate with Geof Stone made much this same point, and made it much better, of course.

  6. Maura says:

    Though trusting a government at this point in time, or any, is a difficult task at best, I’ve always kept hope that our leaders would adhere to the laws our forefathers set out for us.

    I appreciate your blog and thought I’d pass along a URL that you might be interested in:

    I saw the billboard these folks posted when driving down the Mass Pike and went to the website. Good to see that people are trying to spread the word on a grassroots level.