Presidents’ Secrets: The Use and Abuse of Hidden Power

Mary Graham. Yale Univ., $30 (272p) ISBN 978-0-300-22374-3
Graham (coauthor, with Archon Fung, of Full Disclosure), codirector of the Transparency Policy Project at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, shares the engrossing history of how, since colonial times, American presidents have balanced the public’s need to know versus the desire for secrecy on issues ranging from their own personal health to national security. The complexities of 20th-century power politics and technology accelerated presidents’ interest in keeping a wide array subjects out of view. For instance, Woodrow Wilson had already embarked on a secret campaign to damp down antiwar protest when he suffered a debilitating stroke. His closest advisors remained ignorant of his true condition, which allowed his attorney general to step unrestrained into the power vacuum and crack down on civil liberties, and also contributed to the defeat of his cherished but ill-fated League of Nations. Harry Truman grappled with hiding deadly advances in warfare and surveillance, including the use and testing of atomic weapons, and the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency. George W. Bush began collecting data on ordinary Americans after 9/11; Barack Obama used a covert drone program to target foreign terrorists. This chilling and fascinating study reveals how presidents engage in an “endless struggle” against myriad threats, fueling a clash between secrecy and openness that should concern every American. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/06/2017
Release date: 02/01/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
MP3 CD - 978-1-5436-4274-2
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