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
Scott Horton has revealed the real secret at the heart of all the exposes about the NSA, torture, the Iraq War, the CIA spying on the Congress: it's the secrecy. And by understanding the secret of secrecy, Horton discloses just how the mysticism surrounding it has created a momentum that threatens what Hannah Arendt once called a crisis of the republic.'”Sidney Blumenthal
"Lords of Secrecy is one of the most important contributions to the vital debate about democracy in the post-Cold War era yet published. Scott Horton diligently peels away layers of hypocritical rhetoric designed to obscure what has been happening. This is a call to arms: American democracy is under threat and the power of increasingly unaccountable agencies must be brought under control." Misha Glenny, author of McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld
In his theoretically sophisticated and eye-opening book, Scott Horton brilliantly traces the many documented follies of the American national security establishment and examines the unjustifiable use of government secrecy. The lethal challenge to the survival of the country's democratic principles has never been more chillingly diagnosed." Stephen Holmes, professor of law at New York University and author of The Matador's Cape: America's Reckless Response to Terror
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.