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
- Department of Justice Uses Search Warrant To Get Data On Visitors to Anti-Trump Site - August 14th, 2017
- America At The End of All Hypotheticals - August 14th, 2017
- Lawsplainer: Why John Oliver Is Anti-Diversity Now - August 11th, 2017
- Anatomy of a Scam, Chapter 15: The Wheels, They Grind - August 10th, 2017
- We Interrupt This Grand Jury Lawsplainer For A Search Warrant Lawsplainer - August 9th, 2017