Why another blog on national security? Put simply, the age of secrecy, as we know it, is fast coming to a close. Attitudes about the state, demands for privacy, and technology each conspire to make the business of managing secrets increasingly difficult. But as Sissela Bok describes in her 1989 book Secrets: On the Ethics of Concealment and Revelation, some measure of control over secrecy and privacy is legitimate...but within that control lies danger, and moral examination is warranted.
Professionals with access to institutional secrets carry a great burden, bankers and doctors, for example. In national security, holding secrets carries an even more sobering weight. Details on impending or ongoing civil war, genocide, nuclear weapons, or future risks: Important to keep secret in many cases, but worse yet are those details that invite shame, fear, or nightmarish memories. A Crack in the Stoic's Armor describes how a stoic attitude can magnify that burden. Author Nancy Sherman quoting Epictetus: “Our thoughts are up to us, and our impulses, desires, and aversions — in short, whatever is our doing … Of things that are outside your control, say they are nothing to you.”
What are the limits? What should we expect of intelligence professionals, those who are in the business of collecting, managing and analyzing our most important national secrets? Join the discussion.