Open Secrets and Dirty Hands
THE SECRETS OF LAW, Austin Sarat, Lawrence Douglas, Martha Merrill Umphrey, eds., Stanford Univ. Press, 2012
31 Pages Posted: 3 Jun 2011 Last revised: 4 Mar 2013
Date Written: June 1, 2011
Complaints about secretiveness were commonplace throughout the presidency of George W. Bush. Such complaints overestimated the capacity of a contemporary President to maintain secrecy. Moreover, they overlooked the reality that information about the worst abuses of the Bush administration was generally accessible to the public. We professed ignorance about governmental kidnapping, indefinite detention, and prisoner abuse, even though details about such practices were readily available. These facts constituted an category of, "open secrets." Why do open secrets persist? Perhaps because many constituencies have incentives to deny the reality of what we already know. And perhaps because the frank acknowledgment of what we know raises awkward questions about our complicity in governmental wrongdoing. Initially prepared for the Amherst College Seminar on Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought.
Keywords: transparency, secrecy, terrorism, dirty hands
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