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Government secrecy is often portrayed as antithetical to transparency1 as well as an affront to the general right to know, citizen participation, administrative oversight, and democracy itself.2 Furthermore, government secrecy is connected to “much broader questions regarding the structure and performance of democratic systems” (Galnoor, 1977, p. 278), and in instances, is “more dangerous to democracy than the practices they conceal” (Fulbright, 1971).3 This condition has led to what Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. (1987) describes as a secrecy state, whichhas extended the secrecy system far beyond its legitimate bounds. In doing so, the target is far less to prevent the disclosure of information to enemy governments than to prevent the disclosure of information to the American Congress, press and people. For governments have discovered that secrecy is a source of power and an efficient way of covering up the embarrassments, blunders, follies and crimes of the ruling regime. (p. 5)
Since the early years of the Cold War, two countervailing trends have been present in the treatment of officially held information in the United States. On the one hand…
Since the early years of the Cold War, two countervailing trends have been present in the treatment of officially held information in the United States. On the one hand, as the foundations of U.S. information policy were being set after World War II, wartime practices were remade and made permanent in a crisis atmosphere, with the establishment of a classification system (essentially the same one used to this day) by executive order, as well, as the passage of the Atomic Energy Act in 1946 and the National Security Act in 1947. However, even as the practice of official secrecy took root, the United States took the lead in formalizing standards of openness by statute, beginning with the 1946 passage of the Administrative Procedures Act and culminating in the passage (and 1974 strengthening) of the Freedom of Information Act. This article traces the development of U.S. information policy since World War II and describes the impact of official secrecy on decision making and democratic practice more generally.
It is genuinely accepted that the withholding of sensitive information by the federal government, be it relating to intelligence, military or foreign policy matters, will…
It is genuinely accepted that the withholding of sensitive information by the federal government, be it relating to intelligence, military or foreign policy matters, will invariably serve to preclude or minimize damage to our nation's well-being. However, often overlooked is the impact that official secrecy has upon the decision-making process employed by national leaders. This overview examines the harm that official government secrecy can inflict upon our U.S. national security, through the corrupting influence it has on national policy decisions. Using the Constitutional Convention of 1787 as an apt lesson, this overview goes on to examine the impact that official secrecy had on many of the post-9/11 decisions made by U.S. national leaders.
In the twentieth century, the U.S. government began expanding its size and power and keeping more information secret. Executive branch officials began spying on Americans…
In the twentieth century, the U.S. government began expanding its size and power and keeping more information secret. Executive branch officials began spying on Americans, plotting to kill foreign leaders, and deliberately deceiving Congress and the media. As the government began to conduct real conspiracies, many Americans began to suspect it of even worse crimes, like the mass murder of American citizens to provide a pretext for war. Until the federal government becomes committed to transparency and openness, these toxic conspiracy theories will continue to pollute the body politic.
This chapter argues that the psychological theories of Sigmund Freud provide a useful methodology for the study of government secrecy. The chapter makes two specific…
This chapter argues that the psychological theories of Sigmund Freud provide a useful methodology for the study of government secrecy. The chapter makes two specific points. First, Freud viewed the human mind as a highly complex censoring device, which systematically censors certain types of information that embarrasses the patient, while it makes available without impediment more innocuous types of information that flatter the patient's image. It is argued that governmental bureaucracies work like this too, as they systematically censor information that is embarrassing to the state and state officials, while they make available information that flatters the state. Secondly, Freud's theories provide insight into how researchers can cut through systematic censorship and gain access to hidden information. Specifically, Freud shows that patients periodically slip and release censored information to the psychoanalyst. Similarly, state officials too will slip and will accidentally release information to historical researchers who study public policies.
The purpose of this paper is to present findings of a survey conducted during 2012 in Iceland with the intent of examining public opinion on government provision of…
The purpose of this paper is to present findings of a survey conducted during 2012 in Iceland with the intent of examining public opinion on government provision of information, i.e. whether the public felt that the authorities withheld information, either about subjects of general public interest or about public expenditures, if the authorities felt there was a reason to do so.
A survey questionnaire was sent in March 2012 to almost two thousand Icelanders. This was a random sample selected from the National Registry. The response rate was almost 67 per cent. The survey was modelled on other research and resources that had examined trust toward public authorities and the influence of Freedom of Information Acts on government information practices.
The survey discovered that the greater part of the citizenry felt that the authorities did keep important information of general public interest secret often or sometimes. Only 2-3 per cent of them believed that this never happened. Most of those surveyed felt as well that important information about public expenditures was often or sometimes withheld. Only 3-5 per cent of the respondents were of the opinion that this never happened.
The results could be of value to public authorities that want to improve the provision of information and practice according to freedom of information act. They could also bring varied and valuable opportunities to the profession of records managers as well as others who practice information management.
The survey adds valuable information and fulfils a need for a better understanding of what the public believes regarding government provision of information in Iceland. Although the survey is limited to Iceland, these findings may also be of value to public authorities and researchers in the Western World, Australia and New Zealand, to give a few examples where the culture and the practice of government may not be that different, as well as in other countries. The survey can lay the foundation for further research into the field.
I believe it is, or was, the case that libraries in the Republic of South Africa do not stock copies of Black Beauty; nor children's stories about little black rabbits and little white ones. Similarly, it is said to be impossible to get Darwin's Origin of the Species in the so called ‘Bible Belt’ region in the USA; and I have no doubt that it would be provocative—and also futile—to request a copy of, say, Animal Farm from the Lenin Library in Moscow.
The study aims at examining the level of financial transparency of local governments in a sub-Saharan African country and how financial transparency is affected by…
The study aims at examining the level of financial transparency of local governments in a sub-Saharan African country and how financial transparency is affected by democracy in the sub-region.
The study applied a panel regression model to data collected from public accounts of 43 local authorities in Ghana from 1995 to 2014. Financial transparency was measured using a transparency index developed based on the Transparency Index of Transparency International and the information disclosure requirements of public sector entities under the International Public Sector Accounting Standards.
The study finds the low level of financial transparency among the local governments in Ghana, creating information asymmetry within the agency framework of governance. Further, evidence from the study suggests a strong positive relationship between democracy and financial transparency in the local government.
Deepening democracy is necessary for promoting the culture of financial transparency in local governance in sub-Saharan Africa, perhaps in entire Africa.
There is a need for the local governments and governments, in general, to deepen democracy to ensure proactive disclosure of the financial information to the citizens to improve participation trust and eventual reduction in corruption. Effective implementation of the Right to Information Act would also help promote financial and other forms of transparency in the sub-region.
The study contributes to the public sector accounting literature by linking democracy to financial transparency in the local government. Hitherto, studies concentrate on how entity level variables impact on the level of financial information flow in the local government without considering the broader governance infrastructure within which local governments operate.