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The Inherent Need for Government Secrecy

There are many national governments present in the world today that have been elected democratically by the people whom they represent. These governments are directly responsible and accountable to the people, and exist to better the lives of a majority of the people they serve and are chosen by. Being directly responsible to and for the people does not however entail a complete and open honesty with the people of that nation. In many cases it is in the best interest of the nation and its citizens to remain ignorant or purposefully deceived in regards to certain information.

This is where intelligence agencies and government security organizations come into play. These organizations specialize in not only acquiring important information, but also in determining what information is suitable for the public at large and in classifying and keeping this information controlled and hidden. It is vital to national security that some information be kept from the public , or even that in certain cases the public be purposefully deceived with certain information.

A nation’s defense forces rely heavily on intelligence and secrecy in performing a number of operations in everything from weapons research to the actual waging and fighting of a war. The information utilized by a nation’s defense organizations is necessarily kept private and classified in order to maintain a clear advantage over potential enemies. This information may be in the form of weapons research and development, espionage and reconnaissance information, or in government plans of foreign action to name a few.

All of these types of information are necessarily withheld from the public eye to retain and advantage over foreign intelligence services and to maintain national security. An example military research being shielded from public access is the ultra-secret Manhattan Project created and carried out before, during and after World War II. This project was created in the interest of developing nuclear weaponry capable of controlled mass destruction. The experiments carried out in the interest of this project were numerable and extensive, and many were also very controversial.

Despite the controversy surrounding these experiments however, their necessity in the proper development of defense mechanisms (such as the atomic bomb) was placed in higher priority than that of the health of the people involved in and harmed by the experiments. Had the results of the nuclear research and testing been released to the public, the controversy surrounding the human aspect of the experiments would likely have led to the termination of the Manhattan Project.

It was very important that the public not be made aware of the Manhattan Project because the project was a major step in developing the modern US defense system and maintaining the national security of the US likewise. The reason for the atom bomb’s development was the inherent need for a defense mechanism that was more advanced than that of the enemy. At that time it was believed that Hitler was also in the midst of building an atomic bomb , and the only way to defend against nuclear threat is with nuclear weapons of your own. This is an example of a balance of terror.

Especially after the actual creation of the atom bomb it was imperative that the public not be allowed access to such extremely valuable and potentially volatile information. If allowed into the wrong hands, it could certainly have meant the destruction of human life as a whole. An example of intelligence information obtained in part by espionage and used to gain a clear and decisive advantage over the enemy comes from World War II. During the war the German military utilized a complicated and ingenious method of cyptology in the form of a machine called Enigma .

Enigma was an electromechanical machine used to encode messages sent between factions of the German military. The level of Enigma’s technology was well ahead of its time and German intelligence officials were sure that it was absolutely uncrackable and completely safe. The British cryptanalysts however, housed at Bletchley Yard , managed to decrypt this intricate code and after countless hours of work, gained access to virtually every command sent between German military factions.

Though the genius of the Bletchley Yard cryptanalysts and the secrecy of the British reciprocal code, Ultra , Britain gained a considerable and perhaps decisive advantage in World War II. The access to virtually all German transmissions regarding everything from supply transport to planned military offensive operatives gave Britain an inside advantage in being one step ahead of the enemy at every single turn. Had the knowledge of Britain’s possession of Ultra-Enigma leaked to the public, the Germans would have undoubtedly found out through spy reconnaissance and immediately changed their code.

This simple secret could have drastically changed the outcome of the war had it been handled improperly. The British may not have shared victory in WWII without the advantage that Ultra-Enigma gave them. A national government’s various security and intelligence organizations are often privy to a rather large amount of information not available to the general public. This classified information is on a wide variety of subjects, but all pieces of information share one thing in common.

They are sensitive and valuable pieces of information whose secrecy is a major factor in maintaining national security. This intelligence is quite often foreign intelligence, such as in the case of the Central Intelligence Agency in the United States . That is they deal primarily with information about countries and organizations other than the country in which the organization is based. It is from this intelligence that government agencies plan their foreign policies and actions.

If information on these foreign policies were to be accessible by the general public, it is unlikely that any government would be able to carry out foreign operatives. The information would inevitably reach the foreign target country, by word of mouth or by intelligence transaction, and the work of the intelligence agency would go to complete waste. An example of this type of operative and the necessary security involved took place in 1961 when the CIA planned and executed several isolated invasions of Cuba .

The culminating “Bay of Pigs Invasion” was in the interest of assassinating Cuban President Fidel Castro and eliminating the new Communist government of Cuba. What with a large population of Cubans in the southern state of Florida, and the American popular affinity for isolationism, the Bay of Pigs invasion would likely have failed if the public gained knowledge of the impending attack. With a large base of discontent among the population, the invasion could not have gone as planned, if at all, and the CIA’s intelligence and reconnaissance work would have been worthless.

Had the public known about the operation, news of the invasion would likely have reached Castro himself in Cuba as well, and a counterattack on the US would likely have been planned, threatening the national security of the US and creating a multitude of new problems for the Americans. It is clear that national governments and affiliated intelligence and security organizations must make certain information inaccessible to the public. This information must be kept classified and controlled for the sake of maintaining national security.

The information dealt with often regards controversial government actions, plans for foreign operatives, and research and development vital to a nation’s security. If this information were to leak and end up in the wrong hands, it could mean a serious breach of national security or a worldwide disaster in the worst of cases. It is for these reasons that some information must be kept from the citizens of a country. In many cases where intelligence and national security is concerned, ignorance really is bliss.

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