I haven't written about Wikileaks because I am not finished reading about it. I do think that even in a free society a government has a legitimate interest in keeping at least some things secret. But I also think that only a fool would accept, uncritically, the government's own assessment of which secrets it needs to keep. In American law, the state secret privilege — the notion that the government can ask a court to dismiss any lawsuit seeking to vindicate any right, no matter how important, by saying that it will reveal state secrets — is a sham founded on perjury and fraud. People who work for the government will always try to keep as many things secret as they can, because it hides their misconduct, makes them feel important, supports their feeling that citizens are unwashed hoi-palloi who don't know what's good for them, and seems "safer" — in an cover-my-ass sense — than being open.
So it should be no surprise that governments — national, state, and local — continue to make facially ridiculous claims that some things must be secret. Like, for instance, the New Jersey Department of Public Affairs, which believes that national security justifies concealing information about the building of a government barn used to house road salt, under a public order that justifies ignoring the state's open records act when necessary to “protect and defend the state and its citizens against acts of sabotage or terrorism.”
A robust discussion about what government documents ought to be secret is good. A servile and gullible concession that the government can be trusted to draw, and toe, that line is bad.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Free Speech Triumphant Or Free Speech In Retreat? - June 21st, 2017
- The Power To Generate Crimes Rather Than Merely Investigate Them - June 19th, 2017
- Free Speech, The Goose, And The Gander - June 17th, 2017
- Free Speech Tropes In The LA Times - June 8th, 2017
- I write letters - June 1st, 2017