The harms from excessive governmental secrecy vastly outweigh the harms from excessive disclosures; they’re not even in the same universe
Barack Obama promised to bring more transparency to Washington in the 2008 campaign, but he has failed to do that. In some ways, his administration is even worse than the Bush team when it comes to abusing the privilege of secrecy. This devolution speaks for itself, but I’ll nonetheless add three brief points:
(1) Note that secrecy abuses, during the Bush years, weren’t spoken of as a mere side issue or bad policy option, but rather as a fundamental threat to democracy itself. That’s certainly how I constantly wrote of secrecy abuses during the Bush years: secrecy is the linchpin of abuse of power, and transparency is the paramount tool against it. As Obama himself put it the day after he was inaugurated: “A democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency.”
(2) It’s hard to overstate how difficult (and commendable) it is for the ACLU to endorse propositions such as “in some ways, [Obama’s] administration is even worse than the Bush team when it comes to abusing the privilege of secrecy,” or for its Executive Director to say things like: “I’m disgusted with this president.” The ACLU has long been one of the most admired organizations among liberals, progressives, Democrats, etc., and many of its donors, members, and the like do not want to hear that Obama is worse than Bush in many of these vital areas, or that his actions should provoke “disgust” (indeed, to this day — in fact, today — you still have Democratic partisans hilariously insisting with a straight face that, except for a few “Arabs,” there is not “a single freedom the administration has curtailed”). Not only are these remarkable statements from the ACLU a reflection of the its typical organizational integrity, but they are also an obvious reflection of just how extreme and radical the Obama administration is.
(3) The harms from excessive governmental secrecy vastly outweigh the harms from excessive disclosures; they’re not even in the same universe That’s why WikiLeaks is such a vital and important movement. It’s also why I have zero respect for those who so vehemently denounced WikiLeaks’ supposed disclosure recklessness without devoting even a fraction of the same rage to the obsessive, anti-democratic, dangerous government secrecy regime being not only maintained, but vigorously increased, even a full decade after the 9/11 attacks. Such critics have little interest in issues of transparency v. secrecy; their manifest agenda (like the often-overlapping American “terrorism expert” industry: more on them in the next couple days) is to serve the state, demonize its adversaries, and protect its interests. That’s what indiscriminate secrecy achieves, and it’s why such people are so rarely bothered by it.