A brilliant visual essay about the costs, benefits and history of the vast, invisible world of government secrecy.

"You can actually feel the movie focusing your understanding of the issues as you watch." Ty Burr, The Boston Globe

In a single recent year the U.S. classified about five times the number of pages added to the Library of Congress. We live in a world where the production of secret knowledge dwarfs the production of open knowledge. Depending on whom you ask, government secrecy is either the key to victory in our struggle against terrorism, or our Achilles heel. But is so much secrecy a bad thing?

Secrecy saves: counter-terrorist intelligence officers recall with fury how a newspaper article describing National Security Agency abilities directly led to the loss of information that could have avoided the terrorist killing of 241 soldiers in Beirut late in October 1983. Secrecy guards against wanton nuclear proliferation, against the spread of biological and chemical weapons. Secrecy is central to our ability to wage an effective war against terrorism.

Secrecy corrupts. From extraordinary rendition to warrantless wiretaps and Abu Ghraib, we have learned that, under the veil of classification, even our leaders can give in to dangerous impulses. Secrecy increasingly hides national policy, impedes coordination among agencies, bloats budgets and obscures foreign accords; secrecy throws into the dark our system of justice and derails the balance of power between the executive branch and the rest of government.

This film is about the vast, invisible world of government secrecy. By focusing on classified secrets, the government's ability to put information out of sight if it would harm national security, Secrecy explores the tensions between our safety as a nation, and our ability to function as a democracy.

Note about Short Version: "The 80-minute theatrical version of Secrecy situates the problem of government secrecy within the history of the Cold War, nuclear terrorism, and the insistent drive to centralize power. Secrecy probes the failure of the secrecy system to acknowledge that information circulates differently in a wired-up world; we no longer live in the industrial predictability of the US-USSR confrontation. Ambivalence surrounds the use of secrecy in this dangerous, unstable moment of history.

We made the 58-minute version for class use; necessarily pared down, it is simplified.It hews more closely to the film's three major court cases: the El-Masri case of extraordinary rendition, the Reynolds Case of 1953 which established the States Secrets Privilege, and the Hamdan Case in which the Supreme Court pushed back against the Military Tribunals in Guantanamo." Peter Galison and Robb Moss, producers

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