Secrecy: The American Experience

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9780300077568: Secrecy: The American Experience
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The U.S. senator from New York traces the development of secrecy as a government policy over the twentieth century, demonstrates its adverse effects on Cold War policy making, and offers recommendations on curtailing its exploitation by government agencies. UP.

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Review:

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

About the Author:

Daniel Patrick Moynihan is the senior U.S. senator from New York.

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