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Henry Brown
Participant

Commentary from Steven Aftergood's blog on FAS

While almost everyone would agree that national security secrecy has a role to play in an open society, such secrecy must be carefully circumscribed if robust public access to government information is to be preserved. A set of principles that open societies around the world can use to help guide and limit the application of secrecy was published this week.

The new Principles on National Security and the Right to Know were generated by an international group of scholars, government officials, activists and others convened by the Open Society Justice Initiative in an attempt to define a global consensus on national security secrecy and to aid legislators and citizens around the world who may be new to the subject.

The Principles present guidance on specific types of information that the drafters believe may legitimately be withheld from disclosure on national security grounds (e.g. current war plans), as well as categories of information that should not be withheld on national security grounds “in any circumstances” (e.g. information on gross violations of human rights).

The Principles are the product of an international initiative, and they are not the same as U.S. policy writ large. In fact, some of the Principles are inconsistent with current U.S. government practice.