No questions are more important to ensuring democratic government and fundamental human rights than those involving decisions about war and peace and protection of a country’s national security. Inherent in this truism, however, is a fundamental tension in the construction and maintenance of democratic government: democracy and respect for fundamental human rights depend upon public access to government information, while protection of the national security requires some secrecy. The conduct of diplomacy, the maintenance of peaceful relations between states, military activities and intelligence activities all require some measure of secrecy in order to be effective.
The Center has long worked to prevent and oppose excessive government secrecy, especially regarding national security and intelligence matters. It has challenged claims of national security secrecy when they have been used to cover up illegal activities and to avoid accountability for illegal activities when they have been exposed.
Even more fundamentally, the Center has worked to ensure public disclosure of that information about government activities which is necessary to democratic decision-making and an informed public debate.
Recognizing that in order to be effective, intelligence activities require some degree of secrecy, the Center has also worked to ensure effective oversight of intelligence agencies, especially when they operate in secret and pose potential risks to democratic government and human rights.