FAS Podcast: Steven Aftergood, Government Secrecy

Listen to a new edition of the FAS podcast: “A Conversation With An Expert,” featuring Steven Aftergood, Director of the FAS Project on Government Secrecy. Topics discussed include an overview of the Project on Government Secrecy, a review of the Obama administration’s approach to transparency, and much more!

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What did you think about my conversation with Steven?

Do you have questions for Steven that were not answered in the podcast?

Would you like to hear from Steven more often?

What FAS program should be featured next month?

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5 Responses to “FAS Podcast: Steven Aftergood, Government Secrecy”

  1. Stephen Vandivere March 20, 2010 at 1:33 AM #

    I have been following Steven Aftergood’s e-letters and have even found some of the CRS reports, particularly one on the complexities of measuring carbon sequestration in forests, especially interesting (since I am one of those deeply concerned about climate change), but not the sort of thing I would have expected. From those e-letters I was already familiar with some of the policy discussion content.

    What was most interesting was learning how he perceived changes in relationships with those agencies from whom he wanted information.

  2. Ann Crewdson March 21, 2010 at 3:00 AM #

    Please feature something from the Learning Technologies Program–where is it going? What’s new and what direction will it be taking for the future?

    Thank you!

  3. Jaime Yarbrough March 22, 2010 at 11:10 PM #

    I appreciate the interview. I’ll start there. I spent 3 years in USAF Elint in the mid 70′s TS CW and spent a year at NSA. After that in aircraft Maintenance later to start cross training into crypto. Once the security field is in your blood you’re addicted. Recently, over the past 3 years, with the help of the Internet I have become increasingly aware of “conspiracies” / theory and the part information classification, manipulation, inclusion and exclusion play in the affairs of man.

    Secrecy has been in man’s history for century’s and has it’s benefits that no one will dispute. As you and many are aware it’s dismantling is simply not going to happen….. unless….in my humble opinion….you start at the beginning.

    Unfathomable you say? Perhaps. but to understand why many things became classified, the the lay of the complex land which preceded the need for secrecy the only way to unravel it is to start at the beginning. Certainly there will be equal amounts of conjecture of what may or may not have happened from any single particular point or event because of the decision to control information, knowledge, access… etc. but in the best interest of overall trust in the mechanism of classification it has to be done that way.

    History is said to belong to those who write it. Just setting the historical record straight with the facts and or the truth as best it can be disclosed is also a healthy perspective. Taking subjects one at a time even though there are often intermingled should also be accented. Lets start the whole thing off with
    Roswell. (just joking – but you know its going to get there sooner or later…. sooner will be better than later….on that I have no doubt what so ever.)

    Jaime

  4. Chris Peters April 7, 2010 at 12:51 PM #

    I thought the conversation with Steve was fine and appreciate his opening the floor to questions.

    At what levels can we expect market intervention policies to enter into the domain of state secrecy about its military posturing?

    How is the government prepared to maintain secrecy with the growth of the internet?

    How might we expect proprietary information to survive the handoff from outgoing seasoned professionals like Mr Aftergood to survive in the presence of a shrinking zone of confidentiality enabled by the internet?

    How might the internet enable civilian policy formation away from the interests of absentee owners?

    I make sure to listen to every podcast posted on the FAS website by any of the featured speakers. I found the reports on Iran to be very helpful and refreshingly direct in the sea of commercial media clutter surrounding the subject.

    Thank you,
    Chris

  5. Steven Aftergood April 7, 2010 at 3:27 PM #

    Thank you for the comments and the feedback. Chris, these are interesting but difficult questions. Here is one initial response.

    The internet is obviously a challenge to secrecy on multiple levels. There is no single answer to your question about how the government is prepared to cope with it. But there are at least a couple of broad security policy approaches that are being employed. One is to control as much information as possible so as to lower the likelihood of the compromise of any particular item. An alternative approach (that is preferable from my point of view) is to reduce the amount of controlled information to a minimum, so as to protect it as efficiently and effectively as possible using the available security resources.

    “Civilian policy formation” may not be the right term to use in a representative democracy, but the internet clearly creates some qualitatively new opportunities for citizen engagement, participation and collaboration in policy development. In fact, executive branch agencies are supposed to publish their “open government” implementation plans *today* in an attempt to advance such objectives.

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