"A timely and provocative book exploring the origins of the national security state and the urgent challenge of reining it in" (The Washington Post).
From Dick Cheney's man-sized safe to the National Security Agency's massive intelligence gathering, secrecy has too often captured the American government's modus operandi better than the ideals of the Constitution. In this important book, Frederick A.O. Schwarz Jr., who was chief counsel to the US Church Committee on Intelligence—which uncovered the FBI's effort to push Martin Luther King Jr. to commit suicide; the CIA's enlistment of the Mafia to try to kill Fidel Castro; and the NSA's thirty-year program to get copies of all telegrams leaving the United States—uses examples ranging from the dropping of the first atomic bomb and the Cuban Missile Crisis to Iran–Contra and 9/11 to illuminate this central question: How much secrecy does good governance require? Schwarz argues that while some control of information is necessary, governments tend to fall prey to a culture of secrecy that is ultimately not just hazardous to democracy but antithetical to it. This history provides the essential context to recent cases from Chelsea Manning to Edward Snowden.
Democracy in the Dark is a natural companion to Schwarz's Unchecked and Unbalanced, cowritten with Aziz Huq, which plumbed the power of the executive branch—a power that often depends on and derives from the use of secrecy.
"[An] important new book . . . Carefully researched, engagingly written stories of government secrecy gone amiss." —The American Prospect