Fineman’s 4th American Argument is “what can we know and say?” Here, he gives us a very brief idea about the government’s act on behalf of privacy and secrecy, where the government and its agencies approach to hide their work information from the public. In a nation like America, to show the people what is going on inside the government, press and media are the two best sources to provide the information. People can easily know anything about the government activities by press and media. Before the 9/11 incident, the term of “freedom of press and media” was very clear to the public. But, after the 9/11, everything has changed a lot. Press and media feel a lot more pressure to publish any classified information about government. Now a days, Journalists and reporters have to think before to write something about the government.
In democracy, people have the right to know what is going on inside the government. People of this nation born with the freedom of speech and freedom to speak. These are the foundation of the way of life. To make a proper balance, founders made sure that “the three rivers of information: free speech, open government, and personal privacy” always keep their flows in the right direction. But in the name of national security, government agencies and officials always try to put a gate to control the flow of information from the government to the people.
So, the question rises, should Americans know everything their government is doing in their name? The answer is not so simple to answer. If we look back to the history, “the founders knew that secrecy could be useful, even crucial, especially in war” (Fineman 81). During the Revolutionary war, Washington’s guerrilla strategy helped the nation to win the war. Founders also knew that secrecy could be crucial in diplomatic talks. During the Constitutional Convention, they gathered privately in the State House and completed their first organizational vote. “They locked the doors, papered the windows, and swore each other to secrecy until their work was done” (Fineman 81). But in the Constitution or even in the bill of rights, there is nothing that says to maintain secrecy in government.
But the founders used secrecy for the development of the nation. They saw the future and knew the possible issues that will block the progress of the nation and contradict with the terms of the secrecy. Secrecy is not a bad thing to practice until it uses in a wrong way. War is the most complicated issue that makes the term of secrecy very hard to accept in public. Without the war issues, secrecy can be useful to the government for the development of the nation. If the government maintains proper ‘checks and balances’ in the terms of secrecy whether it is the issue of war or not, then the Americans should not necessarily need to know everything their government is doing in their name.
Fineman, Howard. “Chapter Four: What can we know and say?” The Thirteen American Arguments. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2009. 75 – 91. Print.