THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 735, August 25, 2013
Governments are nothing more or less than gigantic
criminal conspiracies...funded by theft and the
basis of all their operations is aggression.
Special to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
There are three ways of looking at this. Being an anarchist, I look at it the third way, but let's start with the first two ways.
The first way of looking at it: Governments are not entitled to keep secrets, period. If they expect their subjects to fund government operations, on the dubious claim that "the people are the government, and government officials are public servants," then the people / the public are the bosses. The idea that an employee has a right to keep the details of his or her work secret from the employer is absurd. Any citizen should be able to walk into any government office at any time, look at anything he or she wants to see, and demand and get truthful answers to any question he or she cares to ask. If that's not the case, then the aforementioned claim goes from "dubious" to "complete bullshit."
The second way of looking at it -- a way to which I do not personally subscribe, but which is the only other possibility in any way compatible with the whole "government of, by and for the people" fairy tale -- goes something like this:
Sure, government has a legitimate need to keep secrets in order to pursue certain important public safety objectives such as -- to quote Bowden again -- "the need to preserve the element of surprise in military operations or criminal investigations, to permit leaders and diplomats to bargain candidly, and to protect the identities of those we ask to perform dangerous and difficult missions."
Keeping such secrets, however, is a privilege which can and should be taken away when it's abused. And the public disclosures of Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden establish, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the US government has abused that privilege routinely and on a massive scale, mostly for the purpose of hiding its other criminal activities. So, it's time to yank that privilege.
The third way of looking at it, of course, is the anarchist way, which means it's the correct way:
Governments are nothing more or less than gigantic criminal conspiracies, overgrown street gangs with no claims whatsoever to legitimacy. They are funded by theft and the basis of all their operations is aggression. They're no more entitled to keep their activities secret than any other gaggle of murderers, rapists and thieves is.
Any way you cut it, this government is not and never was entitled to keep those secrets.
The good news is that it's getting increasingly difficult for governments to keep secrets at all, and that trend is not going to reverse.