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Authors

P.J. Crowley

Abstract

News reporting of a wide range of sensitive government policies, operations, and internal deliberations has raised understandable concerns that U.S. national security is being compromised. In response, there is an increase in investigations and prosecutions and proposed legislation to plug government leaks. But a broader reality may be at work. In the increasingly interconnected and transparent world of the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, satellite television, WikiLeaks, omniscient cellphones and technology-enhanced revolutions such as the Arab Awakening, governments have lost their ability to control the flow of information. More people have access to more information, with the ability to communicate anything from anywhere with the touch of a button. WikiLeaks itself may be a “one-hit wonder,” but given the advance of technology and networking of political actors and professional journalists, this model of networked advocacy and journalism within a 24/7 global media environment is sure to be repeated. Governments have a legitimate need to protect confidential conversations that enable effective diplomacy, policymaking and military action to take place. A world without secrets would be dysfunctional. However, there must also be a zone of accountability whereby citizens are properly informed and governments subject to genuine oversight. Technology is expanding transparency, whether governments like it or not. Faced with more competing voices and narratives in a global media environment, governments will need to communicate more and more effectively to ensure policies and actions are viewed as credible and legitimate. Global public opinion is becoming more strategic. Excessive secrecy is counterproductive – the not-so-secret drone campaign in Pakistan is a good example – and inhibits the development of both domestic and international support for critical policies and actions.

 

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