TOP SECRET: National Security and the Right to Know by Morton H. & Daniel N. Hoffman Halperin

TOP SECRET: National Security and the Right to Know

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Morton Halperin, the former National Security Council member who sued Henry Kissinger for having his phone bugged, and Daniel Hoffman, his colleague at the Center for National Security Study, spell out how the government secrecy system works, what's been done to reform it, what should be done to place the public interest over executive self-interest. A close review of the three leading cases of secrecy abused--the Pentagon Papers, the secret bombing of Cambodia in 1969-70, the secret intervention in Angola in 1975--demonstrates a pattern of deception concealed to avoid opposition. Had it been known, in the first instance, that the Tonkin Gulf incident was not ""unprovoked,"" that the Saigon government did not spontaneously ""request"" the introduction of US troops, support for escalating the conflict would have been jeopardized under Johnson, and for prolonging it under Nixon. The unsanctioned bombing of neutral Cambodia was never anything but ""TOP SECRET""--until William Beecher broke the story in the New York Times (triggering the wiretaps on Halperin and sixteen others) and, that disclosure unavailing, a repentant Air Force officer blew the whistle. The covert Angola intervention, post-Watergate, seals the authors' case for further reform: it can happen here still. They describe the executive and bureaucratic techniques of withholding information and the willingness of the press to conform; explain and evaluate the operative laws; and offer detailed proposals for legislated reform--by which certain information would be automatically released (e.g., on US forces or nuclear weapons abroad), some would be presumptively classified (weapons systems and technology), and the balance would be weighed in terms of national defense needs vs. the value of public debate. A precise, fully-documented brief, useful for students, invaluable for opinion-shapers and policy-makers.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1977
Publisher: New Republic Book Co.-dist. by Simon & Schuster