National Security, the Media, and the Rule of Law
An intensely controversial scrutiny of American democracy’s fundamental tension between the competing imperatives of security and openness.
“Leaking”—the unauthorized disclosure to the press of secret information—is a well-established part of the U.S. government’s normal functioning. Gabriel Schoenfeld examines history and legal precedent to argue that leaks of highly classified national-security secrets have reached hitherto unthinkable extremes, with dangerous potential for post-9/11 America. He starts with the New York Times’ recent decision to reveal the existence of top-secret counterterrorism programs, tipping off al Qaeda operatives to the intelligence methods designed to apprehend them. He then steps back to the Founding Fathers' intense preoccupation with secrecy in the conduct of foreign policy. Shifting to the 20th century, he scrutinizes some of the more extraordinary leaks and their consequences, from the public disclosure of the vulnerability of Japanese diplomatic codes in the years before Pearl Harbor to the publication of the Pentagon Papers in the Nixon era to the systematic exposure of undercover CIA agents by the renegade CIA agent Philip Agee.
Returning to our present dilemmas, Schoenfeld discovers a growing rift between a press that sees itself as the heroic force promoting the public’s “right to know” and a government that needs to safeguard information vital to the effective conduct of national defense. Schoenfeld places the tension between openness and security in the context of a broader debate about freedom of the press and its limits.
With the United States still at war, Necessary Secrets is of burning contemporary interest. But it is much more than a book of the moment. Grappling with one of the most perplexing conundrums of our democratic order, it offers a masterful contribution to the enduring challenge of interpreting the First Amendment.
- May 2010
- 6.6 × 9.6 in
/ 309 pages
- Territory Rights: Worldwide
Endorsements & Reviews
“Starred Review. [A] n intellectually muscular argument that chisels away at some cherished myths....A timely, sure-to-be controversial take on a problem that has no easy resolution.” — Kirkus Reviews
“[A] provocative consideration of the conflict between the need for government secrecy and the role of a free press....succeeds in scrutinizing an issue of vital importance and putting it into a much broader context.” — Publishers Weekly
“In his aptly titled book Necessary Secrets, Gabriel Schoenfeld, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, has presented a subtle and instructive brief challenging the right of the press to make unilateral decisions to ‘publish and let others perish’…. Schoenfeld is scrupulously honest in discussing the real costs of unilaterally decisions by the press…. [He] skillfully presents a counter-history of the famous cases of the 60s, 70s and 80s that established the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence governing the right to publish secrets.” — Alan M. Dershowitz, The New York Times Book Review
“The weight of his book's scholarship, the timeliness of its publication and the audacity of its argument make it essential reading for anyone seriously interested in national security and freedom of the press in these testing times.” — Leonard Downie Jr., Washington Post
“Illuminating, extremely intelligent, learned, engaging, and important. This is a truly great book—the best account ever of the relationship between the press and the government concerning the protection and disclosure of national-security secrets, one that is centrally relevant to manifold national-security debates today.” — Jack Goldsmith, author of The Terror Presidency
“A serious work for a serious issue. Schoenfeld illuminates the complex history and the even more complicated present of America's struggle to balance security and free expression.” — General Michael V. Hayden, former Director of the NSA and CIA