The Cult of Secrecy

Senator Moynihan has expanded his appendix to the Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy report into an elegant, quotable, scholarly, and timely book.

Issue: Winter 1998-1999

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Secrecy: The American Experience (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 262 pp., $22.50.

The most recent public service that Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan has performed for his country was his able stewardship of the bipartisan Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy. The commission's valuable 1997 report, "Secrecy: A Brief Account of the American Experience", contains the most sensible recommendations offered in recent years for reversing the U.S. national security "culture of secrecy", an outmoded eighty-year inheritance of two world wars and the Cold War. Moynihan's critique has special credibility because of his background as a fiercely anti-communist cold warrior during his years as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and in the Senate.

Throughout the Nixon-Ford-Carter decade of détente-oriented policies toward the Soviet Union, Moynihan called for waging a more aggressive "war of ideas" against our chief adversary. In the Reagan-Bush years, the senator was notable for his unabashed hawkishness toward the Soviets. This made Moynihan's recent work as chairman of the Secrecy Commission an adversarial event of consequence for opponents of greater "openness"--past and current American intelligence community figures--who are vehement in their complaints about Moynihan's proposals for reducing excessive government secrecy.

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