This week’s open debate in the House over the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records was striking because national security programs have so often been created in secret since 9/11, says The New York Times.
Secrecy always has been traditional and accepted in wartime, but traditional wars end. Now, as the United States has remained on a permanent war footing against al Qaeda and its progeny over two presidential administrations, tensions over secrecy have increased.
Last week’s ruling — by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York — that the existing phone records program was illegal was focused on this principle of self-government, says the Times:
A program of that magnitude can’t be created in secret and without public debate.
Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy, says it comes down to the question, “Are we protecting simply physical security and our geographical boundaries, or are we protecting a system of political values?”