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Necessary Secrets: National Security, the Media, and the Rule of Law Paperback – May 23, 2011
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Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
More About the Author
Before joining Commentary, Schoenfeld was a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, where he founded the research bulletin Soviet Prospects. Schoenfeld was an IREX Scholar at Moscow State University, holds a PhD from Harvard University's Department of Government, and is a United States Chess Federation master. The father of three daughters, he lives in New York City.
Top Customer Reviews
The author surveys American history -- from the beginnings of the United States to the present -- in an effort to identify the key issues raised by unauthorized disclosures of diplomatic, military, and intelligence secrets and their publication. The author's survey of American history is interesting, and it provides useful context and background information for his discussion of unauthorized disclosures. The author discusses arguments made in favor of publishing leaked secrets, arguments made against the publication of leaked secrets, and the strengths and weakness of the arguments on both sides.
For the most part, the author is critical of media publication of unauthorized disclosures of secret diplomatic, military, and intelligence information, and he challenges many of the arguments that have been made in favor of such publication. But, the author also notes the problem of over-classification of some government information, the value of a free press to an informed citizenry, and the practical and political difficulties of criminal prosecutions of leakers and the recipients of leaks. The author's effort at presenting the pros and cons of unauthorized disclosures and the government's response to unauthorized disclosures is an admirable effort at being fair, but it occasionally may leave the reader with the feeling that the author is ambivalent and perhaps hesitant about some of the positions he takes in the book.
Anyone interested in the subject of national security leaks should read this book.
At the height of the WikiLeaks and Julian Assange news blitz, I had a conversation with my brother-in-law. I told him I didn't think there was much room for keeping secrets. A secret, of course, is defined as "something kept hidden or unexplained." Thus, it seemed to me antithetical to everything I was taught: that knowledge is power and its application is wisdom. Keeping things hidden and unexplained kept me from knowledge and, hence, from having wisdom. "Necessary" of course means absolutely essential.
My brother-in-law reminded me, however, that there was a need for secrecy -- times when it is absolutely essential. Some secrets are necessary. For example, he suggested I probably didn't want anyone knowing my daughter's bank account information. (It gave me pause that he didn't use my bank account information for his example.) Otherwise, he said someone could go in and withdraw willy-nilly. It is necessary, he argued, to keep the critical information secret or unscrupulous individuals or entities will make you regret it.
My conversation with him got me thinking more and more about secrecy, more than I ever had before. It even spurred me on to start writing a novel with secrecy, privacy, or confidentiality, or all three, as a theme. It also caused me to start considering those matters -- secrecy, privacy, and confidentiality -- more fully. I ended up, through happenstance, picking up NECESSARY SECRETS to read and learn more about the subject.
Obviously, since my immediate take on secrecy with my brother-in-law was to want to do away with it, I wasn't very close to the position of Gabriel Schonfeld, the author of NECESSARY SECRETS.Read more ›
"The New York Times reported in 2009 that President George W. Bush had authorized new efforts, including some that were experimental, to undermine electrical systems, computer systems and other networks that serve Iran's nuclear program, according to current and former American officials. ...The program is among the most secret in the United States government, and it has been accelerated since President Obama took office, according to some American officials. "
If it's "the most secret" program, why is the New York Times reporting it? Schoenfeld doesn't discuss this particular case in his book but he looks carefully at the arguments made for and against such revelations.
Frankly I'm surprised by the lack of other five star ratings. His book is well researched, well written and his arguments are balanced, thorough and clearly presented.
He follows the subject from the historical period through to the present. I preferred reading his twentieth century examples over those from earlier periods, but I understand his reasons for reaching back.
I wouldn't say it's a gripping read, but it's clear, fluid writing allows the reader to move quickly through parts of less interest. I also give it credit for succeeding in a somewhat more difficult literary category, which blends history, law and political philosophy.
He covers the Pentagon Papers release by Daniel Ellsberg. Having read Ellsberg's "Secrets" years ago, Schoenfeld's alternate perspective was enlightening.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A splendid book that will not be read by those who should read it.
Sad, but undeniable. Thanks to Schoenfeld for a clear, unflinching expose!
Schoenfeld's work is not only informative but also genuinely interesting. He begins by presenting a New York Times leak from 2005 and then works back toward that example from the... Read morePublished on July 8, 2012 by Kindle Customer