Secrecy: The American Experience
By Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Yale University Press, 1998, 320 pp.
Scholar-statesmen are rare these days, which makes those that remain all the more welcome. Moynihan's book begins with the observation that "secrecy is a form of regulation," and explores at length the role of secrecy in American government. He begins with the early years of the century, but focuses, naturally enough, on the Cold War, to which he devotes more than half the book. Despite its faults (a tendency to recapitulate the scholarship of others, plus lengthy reminiscences in the footnotes), it advances a powerful argument that most secrecy has proven unnecessary. From a proud and unrepentant Cold Warrior comes a forceful exposition of two theses: that "secrecy is for losers," and, more subtly, that the price paid for victory in the Cold War went beyond blood and treasure to a deformation of democratic norms.