Transparency and Scrutiny in International Relations

This NY Times article on the Hatoyama government’s determination to fully expose various “secret” Cold War-era U.S.-Japan security accords seems like a timely complement to the current turbulence in U.S.-EU counterterrorism cooperation. Like the U.S.-Japan agreements, many of the U.S.-EU agreements that followed 9/11 operated either entirely covertly (black site detention centers) or else under the radar (data sharing programs), for the simple reason that they would not have withstood popular scrutiny.

That kind of pragmatic trade-off, though, comes with costly deferred maintenance, as demonstrated by the Japan article. When these agreements are fully exposed and recognized, even after they’ve been largely revealed as open secrets, they can drive undesirable, but also unpredictable reactions. Of the two, the latter are probably more problematic, because they’re harder to plan for. In both cases, they are now emerging at a time when the strategic circumstances have altered or are in the process of transformation.

With regard to the EU, what’s interesting — and relevant — is that, for all the post-Lisbon emphasis on the newly created president and foreign minister positions, it could very well be the enhanced parliamentary powers that drive future EU construction. If that’s the case, it will probably be the result of the EU parliament’s ability to direct popular scrutiny toward some of the less democratic aspects of the EU, such as the CT agreements.

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