Too Many Secrets? When Should the Intelligence Community be Allowed to Keep Secrets?

Ross W. Bellaby in Polity: “In recent years, revelations regarding reports of torture by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the quiet growth of the National Security Agency’s pervasive cyber-surveillance system have brought into doubt the level of trust afforded to the intelligence community. The question of its trustworthiness requires determining how much secrecy it should enjoy and what mechanisms should be employed to detect and prevent future abuse. My argument is not a call for complete transparency, however, as secret intelligence does play an important and ethical role in society. Rather, I argue that existing systems built on a prioritization of democratic assumptions are fundamentally ill-equipped for dealing with the particular challenge of intelligence secrecy. As the necessary circle of secrecy is extended, political actors are insulated from the very public gaze that ensures they are working in line with the political community’s best interests. Therefore, a new framework needs to be developed, one that this article argues should be based on the just war tradition, where the principles of just cause, legitimate authority, last resort, proportionality, and discrimination are able to balance the secrecy that the intelligence community needs in order to detect and prevent threats with the harm that too much or incorrect secrecy can cause to people….(More)”.