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Classified : A History of Secrecy in the United States Government, Paperback / softback Book

Classified : A History of Secrecy in the United States Government Paperback / softback


Secrecy historically has been seen as the act of someone who has something sinful to hide.

Thomas Jefferson once counseled his young grandson that "when tempted to do anything in secret, ask yourself if you would do it in public.

If not, be sure it is wrong." Engaging in secrecy is not always wrong, however, either in our personal lives or in the life of our government.

Secrecy has it place. Often it is necessary. When the framers of the Constitution gathered together in the summer of 1787, their deliberations were shrouded in secrecy.

The doors to Pennsylvania's State House were locked shut.

Armed sentinels stood guard inside and out, and each of the fifty-five delegates was sworn to secrecy by the Convention's presiding officer, George Washington.

The American people were allowed no role in the shaping of their country's new national charter, nor were they even allowed to know of the alternatives their representatives were considering.

Yet if their deliberations had been open to the public, if strict secrecy had not been enforced, it is far from certain that the Constitution would have been adopted.

Indeed, the Constitution's principle architect, James Madison, had little doubt that the secrecy surrounding the Convention's work was necessary "to save both the Convention and the Community from a thousand of erroneous and perhaps mischievous reports. Secrecy in the U.S. Government is not about secrets. It is instead about the role that secrecy has played in American governance for more than 240 years, beginning with the earliest days of the First Continental Congress in 1774, to the president's executive privilege of withholding information from Congress and the American people, to World War II's Manhattan Project, to today's highly complex and often controversial procedures for protecting national security and other sensitive information.

It is a story of the tension between the ideal of openness in government and the real world need for secrecy, and the political accommodations that have been made over the years for each.


  • Format: Paperback / softback
  • Pages: 208 pages
  • Publisher: McFarland & Co Inc
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Central government
  • ISBN: 9781476664002


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