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Secrets and Leaks:
The Dilemma of State Secrecy
Rahul Sagar

Winner of the 2015 Myres S. McDougal Prize, Society of Policy Scientists
Winner of the 2014 Louis Brownlow Book Award, National Academy of Public Administration
One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2014

Hardcover | 2013 | $37.50 | £31.95 | ISBN: 9780691149875
304 pp. | 6 x 9
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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.


"Were Snowden's leaks justified? Rahul Sagar's Secrets and Leaks sheds important light on the question. In carefully argued and lucid prose, Sagar, a professor of politics at Princeton, argues that secrets are inevitable, as are leaks--and that leaks have an important if precarious part in checking secrecy abuse."--David Cole, New York Review of Books

"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

"Rahul Sagar's new book Secrets and Leaks: The Dilemma of State Secrecy is both an important new work on the deep problem of political accountability in the context of U.S. government secrecy, and it is an excellent teaching resource."--Mary L. Dudziak, Balkinization

"Sagar makes a compelling argument that leaking plays an important role in uncovering wrongdoing in an arena in which both Congress and the courts are institutionally inhibited."--Gabrielle Appleby, Inside Story

"In his new book, Secrets and Leaks, the Princeton political scientist Rahul Sagar ably documents . . . growth in secrecy and the problems it poses, excavating from his thorough research a concise history of concealment and revelation from the Revolutionary War to the present. Atop this scholarship, he adds legal analysis and an attempt to map a regulatory framework that will keep the country secure, make the government accountable, and still preserve Americans' civil liberties."--Jack Shafer, Foreign Affairs

"[Secrets and Leaks is] a shining deed in a naughty world."--International Affairs

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Table of Contents:

Acknowledgments xi
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
Notes 205
Selected Bibliography 245
Index 269

Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Rahul Sagar:

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File created: 4/20/2017

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