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A Little Knowledge

Privacy, Security, and Public Information after September 11

By John Podesta, Peter M. Shane, and Richard C. Leone

With the growth of the World Wide Web and the signing of the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments in the mid-1990s, technology promised empowerment and freedom. The web held the potential to create an informed and engaged citizenry by providing the American voter access to a virtually unlimited world of data.

After the September 11 attacks, however, the accessibility of computer networks has come to be viewed as a vulnerability instead of an asset. The freedom offered by technology has increasingly been replaced with secrecy in the name of security. But this equation of secrecy with security threatens not only our liberty but our safety, as an ill-informed public has little faith in its leadership and is poorly equipped to evaluate its vulnerabilities.

A Little Knowledge describes how the current administration’s campaign for unprecedented secrecy has affected the functioning of our democracy and recommends six critical tenets for framing a new, more open national policy on technology and public information. The book argues that citizens must assert the value of openness in formulating new and more productive approaches toward reconciling the imperatives of security and freedom.

Contributors include George T. Duncan, Baruch Fischhoff, and Victor W.Weedn (Carnegie Mellon University), Alice P. Gast (MIT), Sally Katzen (University of Michigan Law School), Richard C. Leone (The Century Foundation), John Podesta (Center for American Progress), Joel R. Reidenberg (Fordham Law School), and Peter M. Shane (Ohio State University/Carnegie Mellon).

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