The Declassification Engine: What History Reveals About America's Top Secrets (Hardcover)

The Declassification Engine: What History Reveals About America's Top Secrets By Matthew Connelly Cover Image
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A captivating study of US state secrecy that combines data science and incisive history to uncover the vast system government officials use to hoard power and evade democratic accountability

Before the Second World War, transparent government was a proud tradition in the United States. In all but the most serious of circumstances, classification, covert operations, and spying were considered deeply unamerican. But after the war, the power to decide what could be kept secret proved too tempting to give up. Since then, we have radically departed from that open tradition, allowing intelligence agencies, black sites, and secret laboratories to grow unchecked. Officials insist that only secrecy can keep us safe, but its true costs have gone unacknowledged for too long.

Using the latest techniques in data science, historian Matthew Connelly analyzes a vast trove of state secrets to unearth not only what the government really does not want us to know, but why. Culling this research and carefully studying a series of pivotal moments in recent history from Pearl Harbor to drone warfare, Connelly sheds light on the drivers of state secrecy—especially incompetence and criminality—and how the relentless accumulation of secrets makes it impossible to protect truly vital information.

What results is an astonishing study of power: of the greed that it enables, of the negligence that it protects, and of what we lose as citizens when our leaders cannot be held to account. A crucial examination of the self-defeating nature of secrecy and the dire state of our nation’s archives, The Declassification Engine is a powerful reminder of the importance of preserving the past so that we may secure our future.

About the Author

MATTHEW CONNELLY is a professor of international and global history at Columbia University and the principal investigator at History Lab, an NSF-funded project to apply data science to the problem of preserving the public record and accelerating its release. He received his B.A. from Columbia and his Ph.D. from Yale. His previous publications include A Diplomatic Revolution: Algeria’s Fight for Independence and the Origins of the Post-Cold War Era, and Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population.

Product Details
ISBN: 9781101871577
ISBN-10: 1101871571
Publisher: Pantheon
Publication Date: January 17th, 2023
Pages: 560
Language: English