By Susan Park
To many, the basic idea behind democracy is that every citizen participates in big decisions. The United States of America is commonly known as a superpower democratic nation. The U.S. was built on democratic principles, and at the same time, has one of the most extensive and restrictive government-regulated secret intelligence systems. In the 81-minute documentary film Secrecy, Peter Galison and Robb Moss explore the starting point for the U.S. government’s secret projects, the controversial nature of secrecy and the fundamental irony behind governmental secrecy and democratic constitution.
According to the film, the Manhattan project was the starting point for the U.S. government’s secrecy. Since then, secret projects increased exponentially over the Cold War era, along with establishment of centralized spy agencies such as the CIA. Following the end of Cold War era, it seemed as if many, if not most of government’s secret projects, would be shared with the public until the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The post 9/11 era marked the starting point for the end of “comfort zone of war.” While most people agree that governmental secrecy is a necessary part for maintaining national security, the film forces us to ask ourselves: to what extent should governments be allowed to use their authority to keep certain information from the public for the sake of national security?
There are some examples of accidents related to government’s secret projects such as the B-29 crash in 1949, the 1983 Lebanon bombing and 9/11 terrorist attacks. Galison and Moss analyze these events a great depth. They provide roughly equal amounts of advantageous and disadvantageous aspects of government secrecy and demonstrate how those points integrate into each case example. The beginning part of the film focuses on the necessity of secrecy. Then, following eerie music and brief references to Pandora’s box and Adam and Eve’s apple, the latter part focuses on problems associated with governmental secrecy. The film also shows many interesting facts about some of the events throughout. For example, the Manhattan project was so secretive that even Harry Truman, who was the vice-president at the time, did not know about it until he became president.
Many ordinary citizens tend to believe that they know much about this world. After watching this film, many may be shocked to find out that what we know about terrorists and many of the accidents are just the tip of a giant iceberg. Secret information is created everyday and there are numerous secrets even FBI or CIA agents are not aware of. This film vividly demonstrates that government secrecy is much more than James Bond and FBI spies. Government secrecy can be closely related from big events such as collapse of giant towers in NYC to relatively small-scale accidents such as a former CIA agent’s death from a car crash.
Secrecy screens in EDC 179 at 7 p.m.