Center for Progressive Reform

Excessive Secrecy in Government

Undercutting the Democratic Process and Protecting Corporations from Accountability

For a democratic government to thrive, its workings must be visible to the public. That fundamental principle has served the nation well for more than two centuries – in times of war and peace, bounty and bust. To be sure, some matters of national security must remain confidential, especially in dangerous times. But during the Bush years, the clamp-down on the flow of information and on the very notion of transparency itself went far beyond the demands of national security.

Indeed, the Bush Administration’s penchant for secrecy surfaced even before September 11, 2001. By then, the Administration had already implemented a series of measures to restrict public access to information. After 9/11, the Homeland Security Act clamped down even more, restricting the public's right to know, and extending secrecy to corporate information.

Bush Era examples of excessive secrecy and contempt for the public’s right to know span numerous agencies, touching on issues far removed from security matters. In some instances, “national security” claims appear to have been invoked to protect not-so-sensitive information from public disclosure. Not surprisingly, the excessive secrecy touches on key issues of health, safety and the environment.

More surprisingly, some of these issues have persisted during the Obama Administration.

CPR Member Scholars’ writings on the subject include:

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© Center for Progressive Reform, 2013