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Nation of Secrets: The Threat to Democracy and the American Way of Life Paperback – October 14, 2008
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“A frontal attack on secrecy. . . . It should be the cornerstone of a concerted effort to build a defense against the encroachment on the public's right to know.” —The Chicago Tribune"Makes clear the danger of out-of-control secrecy."—The Plain Dealer"It burns with the moral ardor that arises from a sense of crisis." —Bloomberg News"An eye-opening and very important book. . . . I learned something from each chapter." —James Fallows, National Correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly
About the Author
Ted Gup is a legendary investigative reporter who worked under Bob Woodward at the Washington Post, and later at Time. He is a recipient of numerous awards, including the the George Polk Award and the Worth Bingham Prize. The author of The Book of Honor, Gup is a professor of journalism at Case Western Reserve University.
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Gup shows that such tendencies have become a dangerous habit throughout America. In separate chapters and case studies, Gup sheds light on the growing secrecy in not just Federal governmental matters and national security, but also in the press, the university system, the courts, and the corporate world. In particular, universities shield information about crime on campus, the legal system is awash in closed-door settlements, and corporate lawyers are increasingly harsh on courageous whistle-blowers. In all cases, information that could benefit larger groups of stakeholders, or society at large, is kept secret for the benefit of the disputing parties or just for the authorities. And Gup shows plenty of evidence that privacy and security, which are usually the justifications for the withholding of information, are being used increasingly as false excuses to hide official embarrassment or to avoid justice for aggrieved parties. All along, this "culture" of secrecy is spreading into all areas of American officialdom, with little resistance from the public at large and increasing hardship for citizens who desire access to important information. While this book's politics are a bit uneven, as a larger expose on secrecy as a cultural and societal affliction, Gup's analysis is fully enlightening and more than a little disturbing for the thinking American. [~doomsdayer520~]
Gup's major concern is that "What you don't know can hurt you." Examples include early warning data on auto-safety defects were exempted from the Freedom of Information Act in 2003 ("could put one manufacturer at a competitive disadvantage"), data from the National Practicioner Data Bank are not available to patients, and Florida exempted nursing homes from public records legislation in 2001. Further, when the Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction reported adverse findings involving Halliburten, Republicans slipped in a provision to close the office. How are citizens supposed to know how to evaluate their government?
Another new development. CIA internal politics includes reclassifying activities to deny access by critics, thus weakening the quality of information by making it less subject to internal challenge. And what about those serving in Iraq being required to sign non-disclosure forms prohibiting talking about equipment/body armor problems. Then there were the efforts to enhance the Jessica Lynch story and cover up the Tillman death.
Still think it's no big deal? What about the false information released about the sinking of the Maine, and the Tonkin Gulf incident - both led to wars that would have not occured with free access to information.
Good perspectives and information, but should have been condensed to a magazine article!
This is an interesting but maddening read!