- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Yale University Press (December 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0300080794
- ISBN-13: 978-0300080797
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 21 customer reviews
Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
#1,468,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #422 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > Public Affairs & Policy > Communication Policy
- #717 in Books > Textbooks > Social Sciences > Political Science > Public Affairs
- #1509 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > Public Affairs & Policy > Public Affairs & Administration
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Secrecy: The American Experience
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Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) was one of the first members of the United States government openly to predict the imminent collapse of the Soviet Union--and, by extension, statist communism--as far back as the late '70s, as political historian Richard Gid Powers reminds readers in a lengthy introduction (comprising approximately one-fifth of Secrecy's total length). Had we spent less time trying to gather secret information about the Soviets and more time openly discussing rather easily interpretable data, Sen. Moynihan argues, we might have been far less paranoid about the supposed Red menace. The problem, he writes, lies in the essential nature of government secrecy: "Departments and agencies hoard information, and the government becomes a kind of market. Secrets become organizational assets, never to be shared save in exchange for another organization's assets.... The system costs can be enormous. In the void created by absent or withheld information, decisions are either made poorly or not at all."
Sen. Moynihan draws upon several incidents to make his point, from the Army's deliberate withholding from President Harry Truman of information about Soviet spy rings to the disastrous 1961 invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs to the Iran-Contra affair. The senator knows whereof he speaks; he was for eight years a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Secrecy ably combines hands-on experience and historical perspective, calling for the United States to take advantage of the new era in international relations to implement policies that once again encourage the open, uninhibited flow of information among government agencies and, whenever possible, the public. --Ron Hogan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
In his decades of governmental service, New York Senator Moynihan has championed the principles of liberal democracy, in its original sense. His intellectual rigor and wry demeanor are both amply evident in this signal work on the state of American democracy. His skepticism of the secrecy bureaucracy began in the '70s, when he was ambassador to India, and reached a high point when CIA director William Casey lied to him about the Iran-Contra affair. He became the chairman of the 1995-1996 Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy and there continued his investigation into the scope and repercussions of governmental secrecy with further research and privileged access to major players within the FBI, CIA and executive office. Starting with Wilson's Espionage Act of 1917, institutionalized secrecy expanded, culminating in the McCarthy era and the continued disastrous miscalculations of Soviet strength right up to the moment of the U.S.S.R.'s collapse. Moynihan argues that secrecy, while necessary in a very few cases, is both counter to democracy and antithetical to well-informed choices, since what is not known cannot be debated or debunked. The inherent propensity of the bureaucracy to enlarge its powers has resulted in exponential increases in what is "classified," and national decisions are dictated by an unaccountable few. While details of momentous cases, such as the Verona project's successful break of Soviet code, with the concomitant implication of Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs, and the Iran-Contra affair, are on public record, it is Moynihan's skill as a social scientist that integrates them into a succinct historical analysis of the American culture of secrecy.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
I simply cannot recommend this book too highly. I doubt Moynihan, as a younger scholar, ambitious government servant, cabinet member or senator could or would write such a book, but an older, wiser Moynihan could and did. And thank goodness! This book can change your thinking. You won't be able to put it down!
Other books have expanded this area since it's publication, but history students concerned about how the internal government disputes regarding secrecy have evolved should have this book.
At one end, Secrecy is a reasonable tactic for protecting We, the People from our enemies - War, etc..
At the other end, Secrecy is a weapon used selfishly by government bureaucracies against one another and/or We, the People.
I think that the lesson/moral of the book is that We, the People are not properly served when Secrecy takes on a life of its own.
Finally, I found the book quite informative, but it was a stubborn read. While the info is terribly interesting, it was difficult to read much at any one time, even though, I was quite familiar with many of the incidents described.