Why the secrecy in gov't. ?

Why does the government have “Closed Door” sessions, why are there secret trials for the suspected terrorists? Why ? These are not “State” secrets. :confused:

This thread should have been posted in GD and probably will be moved there soon. To answer the OP: I believe the Administration’s position is that public trials of suspected terrorists would spoil ongoing investigations by tipping off other, still-at-large terrorists as to what the government knows about their activities.

I beleive that GQ is the proper forum for my post. There are trials other then the terrorist trials that are closed to the public and the press. We are supposed to be living in a Free and Open society, and yet aour Legislature and evan local governments continually have “Closed Door” sessions from which the public and press is barred.

Sorry members for the double post it seems I misplaced my earlier post. which by the way was answered.
Moderator please do whatever. Again apologies for double posting :eek:

The need for secrecy in some dealing of government is long-established. The Constitution (of the US) requires the printing of the goings-on in Congress, except the parts that need to be secret.

If not secrecy there is a need for privacy. When the local government meets to discuss labor contract negotiation, such meetings are generally held behind closed doors. Much the same is true when an elected body discusses who to hire (or fire) for a job.

Personnel records are also considered private, although maintained by the government.

There’s an old saying about legislation and sausages…

Basically, and government needs a certain level of secrecy in order to function. The question is how much.

In WWII, the Allies had managed to crack both the Japanese and German codes, had this knowledge become public, it would have been a simple matter (well, relatively simple) for the Axis powers to make changes to their coding systems and thus keep the Allies in the dark about what they were planning. While I doubt that this would have changed the outcome of the war, it certainly would have lengthened it. Now as to why the government needs to keep certain things from WWII (other than those related to nuclear weapons) secret, or why the top speed of the SR-71 is still classified (to name one example) is beyond me.

Most U.S. States have “open meeting” or “sunshine” laws, which require that meetings of state and local agencies, boards or commissions be open to the public. Under most of these laws, the agency must provide specified public notice of its meetings and hold them open to the public, unless one or more specific exceptions apply. Usually, the agency is required to state on the public record the reason for any private or “executive” sesson. Information on a few states’ sunshine laws can be found here: Florida, Hawaii & Missouri.

A typical law providing for executive sessions (from the Hawaii link above) would be:

In addition, most states and the federal government have a “freedom of information” or “right-to-know” law under which vast quantities of public records are available for inspection and copying by the public.

There are two questions here, and in the absence of specific examples it’s awfully hard to provide factual answers to the first one. As others have suggested, government at all levels in the US is pretty open.

I think though that your first question is only in reference to the second. In search of a factual answer, then, I think we should start by pointing out that no secret trials have taken place. According to this article from the Guardian:

Another wire story confirms this, and points out that while the trials are on hold, that hasn’t stopped a number of prisoners from being released.

Ther are some important legal questions here, which is why the tribunals and the detention is the subject of Congressional hearings. As to why these trials might be “secret,” I think there certainly are “state secrets” that the administration is concerned about releasing. (Most significantly, the intelligence we’ve gathered about terrorist organizations – what we know and how we know it.)

However, I think the bigger issue is whether these detainees are subject to either a) constitutional protection as individuals charged by the US government with commiting crimes or b) protection as prisoners of war, under the Geneva convention. The administration has attempted to carve out a third category called “enemy combatant.” To some people it seems like the only possible solution given the circumstances. To others it seems like an abuse of human rights. That’s a discussion best suited for GD, and it’s a matter that I think will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court.

You cut off the last one:

To try to understand why the government does what it does, it helps to understand the principles which govern the actions of the political office holders and their appointees who actually run the government.

In >25 years of government service, I think I have discerned a few of them, one of which is relevant to the OP: There are only two kinds of information, information that makes you look good and information that must be suppressed.

In my state, the public’s business must be done in public. Some officials have gotten into trouble for breaking that rule, even if it was 2 or 3 city councilmen discussing upcoming city business on the golf course. Coach Bobby Knight sued Indiana U. because he claimed his firing was decided in a closed meeting.

On the federal level…well, I’d better wait until this thread is moved from General Questions.

The desire to avoid looking bad is certainly one reason, but I think that there is definitely another reason. Knowledge is power, even to small town school boards. Especially for small local government, information that they are legally obligated to reveal is often withheld or the release intentionally delayed, secure in the knowledge that few people affected have the resources to pursue a lawsuit. This allows the government body to make decisions and push agendas free from outside forces (ie, the people affected) being able to effectively fight against the agendas.

And even if they have no hidden agendas, it gives a sense of power to have information that you can claim cannot be revealed to the public, and they are suspicious of people asking for information. A consortium of newspapers in Iowa recently tested the state’s sunshine laws at police stations and schoolboards across the state and found their requests for fully public informationdenied 20% of the timeinsome categories.