Secrecy & Democracy: The Limits of American Transparency Winter 2023

Class Details

Secrecy & Democracy will explore the landscape of American secrecy, the myriad ways in which information is restricted, the expanding realm of secrecy and the many institutions and agencies whose actions and influence are largely unseen. This includes not only the 16 governmental entities that make up the so-called “Intelligence Community,” but also the interface between field operatives, analysts, policy makers, and courts. What is it that the three million Americans who have active security clearances actually do, who decides what is a secret and on what basis, are there costs to excessive secrecy, and how has it impacted our understanding of American policy, history, politics and public debate? We will examine the structure of the nation’s security apparatus, how it has evolved, and where it appears to be going. The course will be conducted as a seminar with students pursuing those areas of particular personal interest and presenting their research findings and insights to the class. Course readings will include selected chapters from books and recent articles on the CIA, NSA, and Homeland Security. Several leading experts in the field with whom the author has worked in the past, will speak with the class through Zoom. These will include Pulitzer prize-winning journalists and authors as well as government officials who work with intelligence and classified materials. Beyond the immediate interests in secrecy, the course will take a step back and reflect upon the larger questions about how secret institutions can co-exist within a democracy, what price is paid when secrecy is excessive, and what price is paid when it is compromised.
The Class: Format: lecture
Limit: 15
Expected: NA
Class#: 1240
Grading: pass/fail only
Requirements/Evaluation: Short paper and final project or presentation
Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites. We will not be assuming any particular familiarity with issues of secrecy, national security, or classification. We will begin with the basics and build from there.
Enrollment Preferences: The course has no inherent preference. Diverse student background is a plus.
Attributes: STUX Winter Study Student Exploration

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