Friday, May 30, 2008

Secrecy vs. Homeland Security

Interesting blog post from the Federation of American Scientists, taking off from testimony by Stephen Flynn at a May 15 hearing of a House Homeland Security subcommittee.

The basic thesis is that often secrecy undermines, rather than supports, security, particularly in situations where the public itself constitutes the bulk of “first responders.”
On September 11, 2001, Mr. Flynn recalled, the only hijacked aircraft that was prevented from reaching its target was stopped not by security professionals with Top Secret clearances but “by one thing alone: an alert and heroic citizenry.”

Yet “overwhelmingly, the national defense and federal law enforcement community have chosen secrecy over openness when it comes to providing the general public with details about the nature of the terrorist threat and the actions required to mitigate and respond to that risk.”

“The discounting of the public can be traced to a culture of secrecy and paternalism” that is rooted in the Cold War, when the Soviet threat dictated adoption of a highly compartmented security regime. “Despite the passage of nearly two decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall, this secretive system remains almost entirely intact.”

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