Secrets and Leaks examines the complex relationships among executive power, national security, and secrecy. State secrecy is vital for national security, but it can also be used to conceal wrongdoing. How then can we ensure that this power is used responsibly? Typically, the onus is put on lawmakers and judges, who are expected to oversee the executive. Yet because these actors lack access to the relevant information and the ability to determine the harm likely to be caused by its disclosure, they often defer to the executive's claims about the need for secrecy. As a result, potential abuses are more often exposed by unauthorized disclosures published in the press.
But should such disclosures, which violate the law, be condoned? Drawing on several cases, Rahul Sagar argues that though whistleblowing can be morally justified, the fear of retaliation usually prompts officials to act anonymously--that is, to "leak" information. As a result, it becomes difficult for the public to discern when an unauthorized disclosure is intended to further partisan interests. Because such disclosures are the only credible means of checking the executive, Sagar writes, they must be tolerated. However, the public should treat such disclosures skeptically and subject irresponsible journalism to concerted criticism.
Rahul Sagar is assistant professor of politics at Princeton University.
"This is an excellent book that comes at an essential time. Snowden's leaks, which took place after Sagar finished the book, have focused public debate on the secrecy/transparency paradox, and Sagar's book is infinitely superior to the sloganeering that dominates the media."--Eric Posner, New Republic
"In this provocative and original book, Rahul Sagar resolves a core dilemma of executive power in a democracy. He shows how the justification for secrecy and accountability for its misuse both hover outside the normal legal order. Elegant in its symmetry and uncanny in its timing."--Jeffrey K. Tulis, University of Texas at Austin
"Rahul Sagar investigates the mirror problems of government secrecy and the leaking of government secrets. There are no easy solutions to these problems, and Sagar doesn't pretend there are. Instead, he provides a rigorous, judicious, and clear-eyed analysis of the tradeoffs that policymakers must make, and the uneasy compromises that must be reached. The book comes at a vital time, and is indispensable for current debates about NSA surveillance and related counterterrorism activities."--Eric A. Posner, coauthor of The Executive Unbound
"A truly excellent and provocative book. Secrets and Leaks makes an outstanding contribution to an issue of contemporary concern that will not go away--and will probably become far more serious--in the future."--Sanford Levinson, author of Our Undemocratic Constitution
"Sagar examines the very hot topic of the role of leaks and whistleblowing in democracy. He argues that they are fundamental to democratic politics generally and American democracy specifically, but he is subtle and informed enough to recognize the dangers of whistleblowing, particularly on matters of national security. Sagar could well launch a new literature on the subject."--Corey Brettschneider, author of When the State Speaks, What Should It Say?
Table of Contents:
Who Watches the Watchers? 1
Chapter 1 The Problem: How to Regulate State Secrecy? 16
Chapter 2 Should We Rely on Judges? Transparency and the Problem of Judicial Deference 51
Chapter 3 Should We Rely on Congress? Oversight and the Problem of Executive Privilege 80
Chapter 4 Should the Law Condone Unauthorized Disclosures? Fire Alarms and the Problem of Legitimacy 103
Chapter 5 Should We Rely on Whistleblowers? Disobedience and the Problem of Retaliation 127
Chapter 6 Should We Trust Leakers? Anonymous Sources and the Problem of Regulation 153
Conclusion Bitter Medicine 181
Selected Bibliography 245