Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Need for Leaks.

Lately the topic of “leaks” has made the headlines in the US media just about everyday. There are different ways to look at them, some leaks are good, as they allow public scrutiny and others are bad (when they are a ‘real’ threat to national security or when they are used for propaganda) but one thing is certain, leaks are a sign of a healthy, democratic, and free society that gives room to counter-powers (i.e. journalists). One would also think the US government almost incapable of operating without them. There are controlled leaks (Fitzgerald's team) and uncontrolled leaks (the outing of Plame), but everywhere it seems someone is ready to talk.
Even if it may appear like rumor-mongering to foreigners, in reality it's also part of the basic practice of democracy and more importantly, accountability. American democracy works in the US because its citizens expect a certain level of transparency in its government. If Joe-average can rise to President, then his decision-making process should be open to public reflection. (of course, the idea that Joe-average can rise to President remains to be proven) Granted, classified materials in the US are automatically declassified after 10-25 years, but the everyday leaks that keep things going are rarely such state secrets.
This administration's lack of leaks (at least at the beginning) has been one of its trademarks, as well as a constant frustration to journalists who thrive on printing the leaked word (not to mention bloggers). But leaks aren't so important if officials are open and transparent in the first place. Because of their reluctance, the lawmakers saw fit to pry open their own hands, hence the Freedom of Information Act which comes in both US and UK flavors.


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