Forty years ago, a majority of Americans were highly engaged in issues of war and peace. Whether to go to war or keep out of conflicts was a vital question at the heart of the country's vibrant, if fractious, democracy. But American political consciousness has drifted. In the last decade, America has gone to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, while pursuing a new kind of warfare in Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Pakistan. National security issues have increasingly faded from the political agenda, due in part to the growth of government secrecy.
In lucid and chilling detail, journalist and lawyer Scott Horton shows how secrecy has changed the way America functions. Executive decisions about war and peace are increasingly made by autonomous, self-directing, and unaccountable national security elites. Secrecy is justified as part of a bargain under which the state promises to keep the people safe from its enemies, but in fact allows excesses, mistakes, and crimes to go unchecked. Bureaucracies use secrets to conceal their mistakes and advance their power in government, invariable at the expense of the rights of the people. Never before have the American people had so little information concerning the wars waged in their name, nor has Congress exercised so little oversight over the war effort. American democracy is in deep trouble.
Lords of Secrecy explores the most important national security debates of our time, including the legal and moral issues surrounding the turn to private security contractors, the sweeping surveillance methods of intelligence agencies, and the use of robotic weapons such as drones. Horton looks at the legal edifice upon which these decisions are based and discusses approaches to rolling back the flood of secrets that is engulfing America today.Whistleblowers, but also Congress, the public, and the media, play a vital role in this process.
As the ancient Greeks recognized, too much secrecy changes the nature of the state itself, transforming a democracy into something else. Horton reminds us that dealing with the country's national security concerns is both a right and a responsibility of a free citizenry, something that has always sat at the heart of any democracy that earns the name.
PublicAffairs; January 2015
- ISBN: 9781568584881
- Read online, or download in secure ePub format
- Title: Lords of Secrecy
- Author: Scott Horton
Imprint: Bold Type Books
In The Press
A government accountable to its citizens is one of the foundations of a democratic society. Horton demonstrates how secrecy corrodes democratic institutions, stifles the freedom of information, and protects the powerful from accountability. Lords of Secrecy makes the case that in order to strengthen the rule of law and keep government power in check, we must demand critical debate, civic participation, and above all, transparency.”George Soros
This book will resonate widely, a searing indictment of the national security state that undermines the very values it purports to protect. Scott Horton is a consistent, powerful voice against the abuses of power, an apostle for reason and liberty under the law.” Philippe Sands, professor of law at the University of London and author of Torture Team: Rumsfeld's Memo and the Betrayal of American Values
From drone wars to Middle East fiascos to the war on whistleblowers, Scott Horton brilliantly blends original reporting with a reasoned defense of democratic ideals going back to ancient Athens. Lucid, learned, judicious, and hard-hitting, Lords of Secrecy is an indispensable book for any reader interested in public affairs.” David Luban, professor of law and philosophy at Georgetown University
About The Author
Scott Horton is a contributing editor at Harper's magazine and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for reporting for his writing on law and national security issues. Horton lectures at Columbia Law School and continues to practice law in the emerging markets area. A lifelong human rights advocate, Horton served as counsel to Andrei Sakharov and Elena Bonner, among other activists in the former Soviet Union.