February 06, 2008
By David Darlington
Secrecy, a new film by Harvard professors Peter Galison and Robb Moss about government classification debates, debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2008. Historian Tom Blanton, executive director of the National Security Archive, played a featured role in the film and the discussion following it at Sundance. The film examines “the hidden world of national security policy by examining the many implications of secrecy, both for government and individuals.” (See Sundance description)
“We live in a world where the production of secret knowledge dwarfs the production of open knowledge,” the filmmakers say. “Depending on whom you ask, government secrecy is either the key to victory in our struggle against terrorism, or our Achilles heel.” The film explores the various ways “secrecy saves” lives by keeping volatile information out of the hands of dangerous people, and how “secrecy corrupts” governments by shielding them from public accountability. The film interviews former military and intelligence service personnel, historians, scientists, and lawyers on both sides of the open access divide. The film covers “the vast, invisible world of government secrecy. By focusing on classified secrets, the government’s ability to put information out of sight if it would harm national security, Secrecy explores the tensions between our safety as a nation, and our ability to function as a democracy.”
A trailer for Secrecy, featuring Tom Blanton, is available on the film’s web site.