Can U.S. Intelligence Restore Public Trust on Balancing Secrecy and Openness?

Can U.S. Intelligence Restore Public Trust on Balancing Secrecy and Openness?
CIA Director John Brennan testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 16, 2016 (AP photo J. Scott Applewhite).

Last week, the CIA held its third annual conference in conjunction with George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security. The agency’s director, John Brennan, who moderated parts of the proceedings, expressed his deep personal commitment to improving the conversation between the intelligence community and the American public.

Earning the public’s trust is an obligation in a democracy, and as a practical matter, a lack of openness only leads to very distorted perceptions of the intelligence function. Brennan spoke of the need for secrecy, not for its own sake, but strictly as required for safety and security.

The conference, and Brennan’s remarks, highlighted the efforts that the U.S. intelligence community has been making to restore trust with the American people. That trust was damaged by revelations about post-9/11 excesses in electronic surveillance, the intelligence community’s reluctance to share data about drone strikes, and other secrecy practices, all of which led to a public demand for more transparency. Their efforts deserve recognition, even if striking the balance between legitimate secrecy and openness is a very subjective call, one that the people who own the secrets ultimately get to make.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.