The Vengeful State: Responses by Democratic Governments to Unauthorized Public Disclosure of National Security Information
Unsettling Transparency, by Benjamin Authers, John Braithwaite, Valerie Braithwaite, Peter Grabosky, Kate Henne, Kyla Tienhaara, Natasha Tusikov, and Grant Wardlaw, all of the Regulatory Institutions Network, Australian National University (forthcoming).
26 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2014
Date Written: August 1, 2014
Recent disclosures by Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning and Edward Snowden have rekindled interest in the tension between state secrecy and the public’s right to know. In authoritarian political systems this is a non-issue, as there is neither pretence on the part of the state, nor expectation on the part of its citizens, that national security information should become the subject of public debate. By contrast, the difficulties faced by liberal democracies are real. While hardly anyone would suggest that national security should be managed in an environment of complete transparency, there are many who suggest that citizens of a democracy are entitled to know about acts of questionable propriety that have been committed by their government on their behalf. And prospectively, it is important for citizens to be party to informed discussion about whether the policies that may lead to these acts are misguided or not. This chapter addresses responses of democratic states to the unauthorised public disclosure of national security information. It is not concerned with espionage, the clandestine provision of one state’s confidential information to another. The analysis is based on five prominent cases, each occurring in one of five liberal democracies: France, Britain, Switzerland, Israel and the United States. Each case will examine the disclosure in question, whether the information revealed was indicative of illegality on the part of the state, and the media through which they were disclosed. It will then discuss the mobilization of law by the aggrieved government, including whether the state violated the law in the course of its response. The concluding section of this chapter will look back at the original disclosures and will address two fundamental questions: Was the information appropriately classified in the first place? What harm to national security resulted from the various disclosures?
Keywords: National security information, disclosure, state secrecy, transparency, regulation and governance
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