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An Inquiry into the Dynamics of Government Secrecy

An Inquiry into the Dynamics of Government Secrecy (PDF)
Source: Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review (Steven Aftergood)

This Article reviews selected aspects of secrecy policy in the Obama Administration to better comprehend the dynamics of official secrecy, particularly in the national security realm. An understanding emerges: secrecy policy is founded on a set of principles so broadly conceived that they do not provide unequivocal guidance to government officials who are responsible for deciding whether or not to classify particular topics. In the absence of such guidance, individual classification decisions are apt to be shaped by extraneous factors, including bureaucratic self-interest and public controversy. The lack of clear guidance has unwholesome implications for the scope and operation of the classification system, leading it to stray from its legitimate national security foundations. But an insight into the various drivers of classification policy also suggests new remedial approaches to curtail inappropriate secrecy.

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