Sidebar to feature on author Ted Gup and his new book, "Nation of Secrets."
Some disagree with Ted Gup that government secrecy about its actions and surveillance of its citizens is out of balance.
“Every aspect of American culture is potentially under attack today, and the nation probably errs more toward openness and laxity than it does toward suppression of information and suspicion of those who might harm individuals or the nation,” said Janice Crouse, a former Bush administration speechwriter who is director and senior fellow at the Beverly LaHaye Institute, a politically-conservative, faith-based think tank in Washington, D.C.
“The issue of how much transparency the government owes its people is one of the most important issues of the day after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.”
“Ted Gup asks what the government owes its people in terms of information and claims that there is a profusion of what he calls 'counterfeit secrets,’’’ Crouse said.
Crouse acknowledged that Gup "cites specific instances where the suppression of information affects citizen’s health and national well-being” and that he “tries to balance the need for more information with the
necessity to protect Americans from the release of information that will make them potential targets of terrorists.”
But she maintains that today’s climate of secrecy perhaps amounts more to a “change of tone than a change in the substance and specifics of national security.”
The warrantless wiretapping issue, Crouse said, is a tricky one, but she believes that many of the objections to it are politically motivated.
“Our government needs surveillance ability in order to capture the worst threats to our national security, but nobody is comfortable with the idea that some government official can tap phone lines or plant bugs indiscriminately. There must be a system of checks and balances to avoid misuse and abuse of wiretapping.”
But “much of the hue and cry about invasions of privacy is a political ploy rather than a legitimate concern about abuse of power. The U.S. government has always had to oversee covert actions in a way that does not violate human rights and freedom. Having to increase the nation’s surveillance capability is another challenge that the government is fully capable of handling without violating anyone’s legitimate privacy rights.”
Brian Walsh, a senior legal research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said there’s an erroneous assumption that military intelligence investigations require a warrant, as is the case for criminal investigations.
Walsh said the Bill of Rights addresses protections for citizens in the case of a criminal investigation, but not necessarily in the case of military intelligence or foreign enemies.
“There’s a dispute between the average American and lot of opinion-makers as to whether we’re in a war,” he said.
“The opinion makers feel we’re not in a war, and should treat foreign enemy combatants as though they were criminal suspects,” he said.
But “when it comes to the terrorist surveillance program, the latest polls I saw, approximately two of three Americans felt that if someone from al-Qaida is making a call in the United States, the (government) should be listening in on that call.”