Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

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Are Government Secrecy and Surveillance a Threat to National Security?

In a democracy there will occasionally be leaks that harm national security. But no democracy can survive for long without a free, independent, occasionally irritating, and even irresponsible press.
July 1, 2013
Are Government Secrecy and Surveillance a Threat to National Security?

Government secrecy and surveillance are supposed to protect our national security. What if they can also do just the opposite?


  • Managing Editor
  • Clay Dillingham
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Due to examples like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange an important public debate about these issues has finally begun.

Given all the technological advances in the government’s ability to monitor telephone and electronic communications, combined with its reluctance to curtail its practice of classifying as “secret” in the name of national security so much of what it does, Americans face a threat, not only to their individual and collective rights, but also to the very national security the government ostensibly seeks to protect.

If Americans are repeatedly told that everything is secret, eventually they will come to suspect the need for and validity of even genuine secrets, including those that protect their national security. True national security secrets, including legitimate secrets like those being kept at Los Alamos, are jeopardized by the government’s passion for making everything a secret. If Americans come to distrust their government, how is their national security served?