Choose One: Secrecy and Democracy Are Incompatible - Conor Friedersdorf - the Atlantic
What Marshall doesn’t grasp is that — like Snowden’s leaks — secrecy itself renders “certain things no longer possible.” What’s more damaging to representative democracy, denying government its secret policies, or denying the citizenry the ability to influence major policy debates?
The answer is clear.
Above I noted that it would be illegitimate to leak a secret like the identity of all CIA agents. I confess that it’s harder to articulate just when a secret policy crosses into the realm of diminished legitimacy. It’s a judgment call. There is no bright line. But I regard Snowden’s leak as obviously on the side of revealing a secret illegitimately kept, for reasons I lay out at length here. I’d encourage Marshall to grapple with that. Here’s an initial prompt: Given that attempts to challenge NSA surveillance in court have been subverted, national-security officials have blatantly lied to Congress about its nature, and the author of the legal language supposedly justifying it swears it violated the Patriot Act, why should we act as if it’s as legitimate as any other policy?
As Galston said at the conclusion of that Lawfare post, “it is time for us to ask ourselves — as a country — whether the balance we’re striking is the right one. To do that, the people and their representatives must be in possession of the facts—and empowered to discuss them freely. Our government should stop asking us to sacrifice democratic deliberation on the altar of secrecy.”