Why Government Wants to Keep Secret Things Secret

Yesterday, we told you the story of how Wired's Spencer Ackerman got the story about how the NSA thinks that telling you it's violating your privacy is a violation of your privacy.

Sadly, keeping secret and devising reasons why those secrets have to be secrets aren't exactly new to the government. Today, Spencer followed up with Washington's 5 Worst Arguments for Keeping Secrets From You.

For example:

Nuclear Experiments on People Would Have ‘Adverse Effects on Public Opinion’

Government secrecy is perhaps at its most pronounced with nuclear weapons. And most people would probably agree that discretion is the better part of valor when it comes to the US’s most dangerous arsenal. But that leeway probably doesn’t extend to atomic experiments on human beings. Still, back in the 1940s, the Atomic Energy Commission decided you couldn’t know about anything of the sort.

We now know that at the dawn of the nuclear age, the commission indeed used human guinea pigs to learn what the effects of atomic blasts and lingering radiation would be on the human physiology. In 1947, the commission wanted word that it was, among other things, feeding irradiated food to handicapped children kept very quiet. Its rationale was straightforward in its brazenness: We don’t want to be sued by an outraged public.


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