Blacked Out: Government Secrecy in the Information Age by Alasdair Roberts

By Alasdair Roberts

In 1966 the U.S. Congress handed the landmark Freedom of knowledge Act (FOIA) giving the general public the correct to entry executive files. This "right to know" has been used over the intervening years to problem overreaching Presidents and secretive govt enterprises. this instance of governmental transparency has served as an inspiring working example to countries all over the world, spawning comparable statutes in fifty-nine international locations. but, regardless of those worldwide efforts to foster openness in govt, secrecy nonetheless persists--and in lots of cases--sometimes flourishes. Alasdair Roberts, a in demand attorney, public coverage professional, and overseas authority on transparency in executive, examines the evolution of the rage towards governmental openness and the way technological advancements have assisted the disclosure and dissemination of knowledge. within the approach he bargains a finished examine the worldwide efforts to limit secrecy and gives readers with a basically written consultant to these parts the place the conflict over secrecy is such a lot excessive. Drawing on situations from many various nations, Roberts is going additional than the preferred view that secrecy is just an issue of egocentric bureaucrats attempting to disguise embarrassing details via displaying how such robust tendencies as privatization, globalization, and the "networking" of protection organisations are complicating the struggle opposed to secrecy. In our time while new terror threats galvanize most likely counter-productive measures that abate openness, the necessity for a radical and dispassionate dialogue of openness in democratic societies is principally acute. Written in an interesting sort, Blacked Out powerfully illustrates why transparency issues and why the fight for openness is so tough. Alasdair Roberts is affiliate Professor within the Maxwell institution of Citizenship and Public Affairs and Director of the Campbell Public Affairs Institute at Syracuse collage. An internationally-recognized professional on open govt, he has written over thirty magazine articles and e-book chapters. he's a 2005 recipient of the Johnson Award for most sensible Paper in Ethics and responsibility within the Public zone. He has been a fellow of the Open Society Institute and the Woodrow Wilson heart for students, and is a member of the Initiative for coverage Dialogue's Transparency job Force.


Alasdair Roberts' Blacked Out is a fast moving, well-informed and engrossing account of the emergence of a world flow to carry governments liable by way of requiring them to reveal info they'd fairly withhold to hide corruption, bureaucratic incompetence, environmental degradation, human rights abuses and different misconduct. it truly is crucial studying for proponents of open societies.
-Aryeh Neier, President, Open Society Institute

"Alasdair Roberts has written a monumentally vital ebook, not just approximately secrecy and the right-to-know move, yet in regards to the deeply troubling 'ethic of detachment' and quiescence of the yank public. What stable is critical information regarding abuses of strength if there isn't any responsibility, if not anyone acts on that information?"
-Charles Lewis, President, The Fund for Independence in Journalism

"Professor Roberts presents prepared insights into the ability fight over secretiveness in supranational institutions...Blacked Out makes it crystal transparent that the sport has replaced enormously by way of guarding citizens' correct to information regarding the actions carried out via governments and their deepest surrogates."
-Doris Graber, college of Illinois

"Blacked Out, is an available and certain account of the increase and partial fall of the knowledge disclosure tradition in governments round the world."
-Craig Forcese, Ottawa legislations Review

"Roberts describes the strategies that politicians and bureaucrats have used to maintain govt secrecy, explains how profound alterations within the constitution of government-notably privatization of public services-are complicating campaigns for openness, and notes how new info applied sciences occasionally increase openness, yet occasionally create barriers."
-Future Survey

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55 These new policies reflected a fundamental shift in perceptions about the character of the security threat confronting the United States. In the era of the Cold War, security policy had been premised on the assumption that the principal threat to national security would be posed by other states, and that those threats would be manifested through overt military confrontations rather than sporadic acts of terror or sabotage within national borders. ”57 Fears about the United States’ susceptibility to domestic attack, already stoked by the attacks, were further heightened in the following months.

A prerequisite, according to the Commission, is the loosening of Cold War-era rules that gave greater weight to the risks of inadvertent disclosure than it did to the benefits of broad dissemination. The approach to reform is liberal but still limited: It proposes better information sharing principally inside the community of government agencies. Nevertheless, a similar logic could be used to justify broader information sharing to stakeholders outside government as well. Like many officials inside government, the general public remained unaware of high-level concern about impending attacks in the summer of 2001.

The decision to withhold details about gaps in security was predicated on the assumption that officials or businesses that held the information would take steps to remedy the problems. But here was the fundamental question: Could large bureaucracies – public or private – be trusted to act vigorously without being prodded by journalists or advocacy groups who shared knowledge of security defects? 40 P1: irk 0521858704c02 CB1001/Roberts 0 521 85870 4 September 17, 2005 20:6 Secrecy and Security Skepticism about the public’s ability to rely on the vigilance of officials in fixing security problems pervaded the post-9/11 debate over the withholding of information.

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