Government secrecy: Decisions without democracy

Excessive secrecy is the enemy of public accountability and democratic governance. Unfortunately, it is becoming standard operating procedure for many government officials. Vice President Dick Cheney’s recent insistence that his office is not subject to secrecy regulations that apply to the executive branch is just the latest evidence of a systematic campaign to keep information about government activities out of the hands of the American public. Freedoms of Information laws are grounded in the recognition that knowledge about the government’s actions is the necessary first step in oversight and accountability. Most Americans recognize the need to safeguard national security information from improper public disclosures that would damage the national interest. But national security has become a blanket excuse to withhold information from the public as well as from Congress, especially in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

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