Secrecy and Security
For as long as there has been a need for security, there has been a parallel and equally pressing need for secrecy. A host of critical issues—from the Syrian government’s covert stockpiling of chemical weapons to disclosures sparked by Wikileaks and the NSA’s surveillance programs—have provoked controversy over the boundaries of secrecy and security. In our fall cover theme, World Policy Journal probes the tension between transparency and underlying efforts to guarantee our way of life. From drones to espionage, private armies to Middle East peace, Afghanistan to Jordan, our authors explore the borders and nuances of today’s single most pressing debate.
The Big Question: What Should the Government Keep Secret?
For governments, which routinely weigh security concerns over disclosure of covert operations, the balance between secrecy and accountability becomes an ever more pressing national debate. We asked our panel of global experts- from Bahrain to Sweden- what, if anything, they believe governments should or must keep secret.
Modern terrorism can only be fought through government spying, argues Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of MI6. This requires a certain degree of secrecy that the public will only accept when they regain trust in their elected leaders. Dearlove recommends independent oversight of covert government operations to reassure skeptical citizens.
G4S is the world’s largest private military and security company, and its third-largest private employer, trailing only Walmart and FoxConn. Over the last two decades, the industry has boomed as governments increasingly outsource core security and military tasks to private firms. International humanitarian and labor groups have widely condemned the British company for its recurrent negligence and record of human rights abuse. Careful monitoring of its scope and power is therefore essential to keeping it within bounds.
Like the Internet, drones were pioneered by the military but will soon be largely used for civilian purposes, predicts Neil Jacobstein, co-chair of A.I. and Robotics at Singularity University. Jacobstein outlines a set of policies to ensure drone security and distinguish between military and commercial use. These policies could allay fears and allow us to harness this revolutionary technology to its full potential.
The hacktivist group Anonymous is a loose collective of cyber activists, united only by a broad philosophy of eradicating corruption. World Policy Journal has compiled an overview of the group’s activity in 2011-2012. The map illustrates the regional density of its attacks over that period. Pie charts display the number of attacks in their respective areas and group the targets into four categories. While active on every continent, most of the group’s attacks have hit Europe.
The Russian spy agency FSB has already created a level of surveillance that its Soviet predecessors could only dream of, spying on websites, social media, and phones. But it is aiming for much more, investigative journalists Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan contend. Its goal is a separate Russian Internet that the government can more easily control, and marks the first step in dismantling the worldwide web.
As NATO forces prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014, former CIA deputy director Jack Devine and foreign-affairs specialist Whitney Kassel take a look back at the Soviet withdrawal from the country in the late 1980s. Had Moscow continued to back the Afghan government, they argue, the Taliban might not have swept to power. NATO needs to learn from the past and provide military, financial, and intelligence support to Kabul beyond 2014. But most importantly, it needs to cut a deal with Pakistan.
While much of the Middle East is in turmoil, the kingdom of Jordan has stayed remarkably stable. In his own words, His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan explains the formula behind his country’s security: gradual reform, moderation, pluralism, and respect for others. But for the country to continue on its successful trajectory and also cope with the influx of Syrian refugees, more global support is needed.
While more and more young people around the world are moving to cities, the old stay behind. La Cienega, Ecuador, a village without children, is a symbol of this development. The youngest resident of this once-thriving village is now 63 years old. Photographer Santiago Arcos Veintimilla captures a place that has lost its future in the wake of all but unfettered urban migration.
In an attempt to fight corruption, several Latin American countries are adopting a U.S.-style adversarial legal system – with public defenders, juries, and audiences. Thea Johnson, Thomas C. Grey Fellow at Stanford Law School, takes an in-depth look at legal reform in Ecuador and finds the new system makes judges more accountable and gives citizens a chance to participate. But Ecuador should be careful to stay clear of the U.S. legal system’s greatest perversion: litigation.
As physicians and hospitals providing medical service in war zones around the world multiply, their facilities have increasingly become military targets—placing their medical staffs in danger, while preventing locals from seeking care, Jason Cone and Françoise Duroch of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) explain. Warring states and parties, including NATO, must change their rhetoric, and implement and respect weapons-free policies within hospitals and beyond.
As healthcare access expands worldwide, labor migrants largely fall through the cracks. This is a grave neglect, as migrants are at high risk of contracting and spreading diseases like HIV, journalist Amy Lieberman writes. The problem can only be tackled through national and international agreements, but first the World Health Organization needs to assume responsibility.
On the back of a booming garments manufacturing industry, Bangladesh’s GDP has been growing at an impressive rate. But for growth to be sustainable, working conditions in factories need to become safer and more efficient, writer and entrepreneur Edward Bearnot argues. Government, international buyers, and labor groups must work together to reduce labor turnover and regulate sub-contractors.
Somalia’s civil war is spilling over into neighboring Kenya. Islamic terrorists have infiltrated the country and are responsible for several bloody attacks in Nairobi, which has in turn led to hostility toward Somalis, Kenyan journalist Mwaura Samora writes. He argues that the government must reward informants and ensure that its campaign against terrorism is not directed against peaceful Somalis in Kenya.
World Policy Journal editor David A. Andelman takes a look at the noisy, chaotic world of parliaments. In the third of his series examining the relations between governments and those they rule, he argues that a U.S.-style presidential democracy offers the most effective checks on the executive. But there is no blueprint that works for every country, and nascent democracies should be given some slack.