Culture of Secrecy

A culture of secrecy breeds power and the ability to act with impunity. Careerist elements within any government prefer secrecy because it allows them to forego the often tedious act of being accountable for even the smallest decision. It’s often justified as a Good Thing because the actors can circumvent bureaucratic red tape and work more efficiently. Ultimately, however, the end game is the same: A small elite minority within the permanent establishment begin to take privilege and influence for granted, and act independently of government policy.

This is not something unique to the US diplomatic corps. It happens in all organisations. And it is explicitly what freedom of information laws and regulations are designed to counteract. Absent this capability, it’s left to whistleblowers and WikiLeaks to serve in this role.

Viewed in this light, we have to conclude that the attacks on wikileaks are primarily driven not by the state, but by certain of its constituents who might lose the leverage that a culture of secrecy has given them. That’s why the counter-attack on WikiLeaks has been composed mostly of deft cuts at the the service’s underpinnings rather than overt state action. A quiet word here and there, and anyone hosting material even related to wikileaks goes offline. A whisper in the ear of an ambitious (or susceptible) Swedish prosecutor and a nuisance case becomes an international manhunt.

Secrecy and a scarcity of information are crucial to the continuation of the cronyism about which so many Americans complain. It astounds me how many of these same people who rail at the unhealthy, shadowy bonds between corporations, lobbyists and the government are now scandalised that an organisation like WikiLeaks is struggling to diminish the power of these linkages.