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Necessary Secrets: National Security, the Media, and the Rule of Lawby Gabriel Schoenfeld
Synopses & Reviews
"Leaking"--the unauthorized disclosure to the press of secret information--is a well-established part of the U.S. government's normal functioning. Gabriel Schoenfeld examines history and legal precedent to argue that leaks of highly classified national-security secrets have reached hitherto unthinkable extremes, with dangerous potential for post-9/11 America. He starts with the New York Times' recent decision to reveal the existence of top-secret counterterrorism programs, tipping off al Qaeda operatives to the intelligence methods designed to apprehend them. He then steps back to the Founding Fathers' intense preoccupation with secrecy in the conduct of foreign policy. Shifting to the 20th century, he scrutinizes some of the more extraordinary leaks and their consequences, from the public disclosure of the vulnerability of Japanese diplomatic codes in the years before Pearl Harbor to the publication of the Pentagon Papers in the Nixon era to the systematic exposure of undercover CIA agents by the renegade CIA agent Philip Agee.
Returning to our present dilemmas, Schoenfeld discovers a growing rift between a press that sees itself as the heroic force promoting the public's "right to know" and a government that needs to safeguard information vital to the effective conduct of national defense. Schoenfeld places the tension between openness and security in the context of a broader debate about freedom of the press and its limits.
With the United States still at war, Necessary Secrets is of burning contemporary interest. But it is much more than a book of the moment. Grappling with one of the most perplexing conundrums of our democratic order, it offers a masterful contribution to the enduring challenge of interpreting the First Amendment.
Book News Annotation:
In March 2006, shortly after New York Times reporters Eric Lichtblau and James Risen published their expose on the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program, Schoenfeld published an essay in Commentary magazine ("Has the New York Times Violated the Espionage Act?") calling for the prosecution of the two reporters. That essay and his subsequent experiences participating in public forums debating issues of leaking and government secrecy have developed into this book, which builds a case for privileging government secrecy based on national security justifications over First Amendment "absolutism." Schoenfeld positions his discussion as a corrective to such works as Geoffrey Stone's Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime: From the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism, which he argues builds its case largely by omission. Those omissions, incidents of publishing national security secrets that caused or posed great harm to US national security, form the core of his work as, following a brief discussion of the views the founding fathers' views on government secrecy, he points to such incidents as the disclosure of the vulnerability of Japanese diplomatic codes in the run-up to Pearl Harbor, the disclosures that could have revealed the existence of the US nuclear weapons program during World War II, and the exposure of undercover CIA agents by ex-CIA officer Philip Agee, among others, as evidence that national security secrecy should often trump First Amendment concerns.. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
An intensely controversial scrutiny of American democracy's fundamental tension between the competing imperatives of security and openness.
Advance Praise for Necessary Secrets
"Illuminating, extremely intelligent, learned, engaging, and important. This is a truly great book--the best account ever of the relationship between the press and the government concerning the protection and disclosure of national-security secrets, one that is centrally relevant to manifold national-security debates today."--Jack Goldsmith, Henry L. Shattuck Professor of Law, Harvard University, author of The Terror Presidency
"A serious work for a serious issue. Schoenfeld illuminates the complex history and the even more complicated present of America's struggle to balance security and free expression."--General Michael V. Hayden, Director, Central Intelligence Agency (2006-2009), Director, National Security Agency (1999-2005)
'Leaking"the unauthorized disclosure of classified 'information'"is a well-established part of the U.S. government"s normal functioning. Gabriel Schoenfeld examines history and legal precedent to argue that leaks of highly sensitive national-security secrets have reached hitherto unthinkable extremes, with dangerous potential for post-9/11 America. He starts with the New York Times"s recent decision to reveal the existence of National Security Agency programs created under the Bush administration. He then steps back to the Founding Fathers' intense preoccupation with secrecy. In his survey of U.S. history, Schoenfeld discovers a growing rift between a press that sees itself as the heroic force promoting the public"s 'right to know' and a government that needs to safeguard information vital to the effective conduct of foreign policy. A masterful contribution to our understanding of the First Amendment, Necessary Secretsmarshals the historical evidence that leaks of highly classified government information not only endanger the public but merit legal prosecution.
About the Author
Gabriel Schoenfeld is a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C. and a resident scholar at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey. His essays on national security and modern history have appeared in leading publications including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Weekly Standard, the New Republic, the Atlantic, the National Interest, and Commentary, where he was senior editor from 1994 to 2008. Schoenfeld holds a PhD in political science from Harvard University.
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History and Social Science » Politics » Covert Government and Conspiracy Theory