By Sumesh Shiwakoty
NEW YORK, OCT 11 -- In U.S. politics, there is an ongoing debate about government keeping information secret. It is hard to choose a side in this discussion because right after you choose a side, it leads you to more debates about mass-surveillance and invasion of privacy by the government. This is because the government agencies conduct all these activities through a secret channel. Those who say the government should keep some information safe argues that mass-surveillance and invasion of American citizen’s privacy have helped law enforcement agencies to detect terror threat and keep the country safe. Thus, they claim that the act of keeping such information secret by government agencies far outweigh the cost of citizens losing their privacy. Other who says the government should not keep information secret argues that citizens should not lose their right to privacy and information for the sake of security. However, one thing that is missing from this debate is that to what degree the mass surveillance has helped the government to stop terror attack and to what extent government should keep information safe.
The New York Times reports that in the duration since the National Security Agency’s data collection programs became known to the public, the intelligence community has failed to demonstrate that mass surveillance has prevented any major terrorist attack. It has also been argued that during the Paris attack of November 2015, most of the terrorist involved were already under the radar of intelligence officials. However, they were still not able to act and prevent the attack. Thus, citing these facts, many argue that government mass surveillance program has not actually helped to prevent terror attacks as many politicians and policymakers suggest but rather has helped corporate America to get private information about the American public.
Another important point that need to be discussed is not that if the government should keep some information secret but the debate on how secret that information should be and who should have access to those information within government. It is true that government should keep some information secret for the interest of national security. However, democracy will die if only few handful people of government agencies will have access to classified information. Therefore, no matter how sensitive the information is, all three organs of government: executive, legislative and judiciary should have access to those information, and all that information should be released for public knowledge after a certain period when that information no longer possess any direct security concerns. This way we can keep government agencies liable while addressing security concerns.