A Culture of Secrecy

The Government Versus the People's Right to Know

Edited by Athan G. Theoharis

The government is hiding information from its citizens—or so most Americans believe. While even some members of Congress now call for greater access to classified documents, federal agencies continue to withhold a massive amount of information in the name of national security, maintaining a culture of secrecy rooted in the Cold War.

This new book examines who in government is hiding what from the rest of us, how they're doing it, and why it should matter to all of us. Contributing scholars, journalists, and attorneys survey the policies of federal intelligence agencies and presidents—notably Nixon, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton-to keep information secret. They show how these agencies have gone far beyond legitimate security needs to withhold information, and they describe the frustrations and costs encountered in their own efforts to obtain classified information.

“The volume successfully argues for a more honest declassification of records and alerts scholars and general readers to the scandalous offenses of government gatekeepers.

—Journalism History

“Theoharis and the contributors to his volume make a valuable contribution to the antisecrecy counterculture.

—Journal of American History
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The authors review important cases exemplifying State Department, agency, and presidential efforts to withhold, destroy, or delay release of these records. In chapters centering on the Kennedy assassination, the Nixon tapes, and the FBI's files on John Lennon and the Supreme Court justices, readers will find an abundance of startling and disturbing revelations. By citing some of the methods used by agencies like the CIA, NSA, NSC, and FBI to circumvent the Freedom of Information Act—often with the cooperation of the judicial system—these essays clearly show that abuses of secrecy aren't limited to the withholding of information but extend to the absurd lengths taken to avoid disclosure.

About the Author

Athan G. Theoharis is a professor of history at Marquette University and a leading authority on the FBI. Among his many books are From the Secret Files of J. Edgar Hoover, The Boss, and Spying on Americans.