June 07, 2007

The new America revealed in Nation of Secrets, by Ted Gup

Best-selling author examines secrecy as the threat to democracy and American life


Case Western Reserve University professor and best-selling author Ted Gup has a new book about to come out from Doubleday, Nation of Secrets: The Threat to Democracy and the American Way of Life. The book examines how secrecy has corrupted American institutions and affected the daily lives of American citizens.

"From the founding fathers on, Americans have always been at war with secrecy," stated Gup. "America's right to know now has been reduced to the need to know."

The George W. Bush administration is one of the most secretive in history, said Gup. At the same time, he also faulted the Democratic Party for "shirking its responsibility and failing to aggressively pursue vital information on behalf of the public."

For the past 30 years, the author has monitored the American pulse on openness to information through his investigative work as a reporter for the Washington Post and Time magazine in his coverage of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of State and numerous other departments and agencies of government.

But his level of concern heightened when he listened to "people who are not usually sensitive to these issues begin to express reservations and apprehension." At that point he started to collect their stories. Eventually he traveled across the country to interview hundreds of America's leaders at the CIA, the Pentagon, State Department and corporations, as well as federal judges, political scientist, educators and journalist.

"Secrecy has reared its ugly head in every American crisis. With the contraction of the threat, it abated. But not this time, because the nature of the threat—terrorism—does not end with a truce or surrender, nor is it state sponsored," said Gup.

He added that secrecy is opportunistic and gains a foothold where possible. "It is ubiquitous and targets the civilian infrastructure; it has spread beyond the federal, state and local governments to all industries involved in that infrastructure. The attitude has migrated well beyond anything related to national security."

Gup believes for the first time in American history, the nation's obsession with secrecy may not abate, that it may well be a permanent feature to the American landscape.

He uses his talents as an investigative reporter to crack the wall of secrecy and alert the public to the perils that befall a society shrouded in secrets. If the secrecy continues to expand, he cautioned that the country will move from a representative to representational government—a pale reflection of the American democracy that was.

"More people are aware that we have more secrets post 9-11, but very few Americans are aware of the full scope of that secrecy," he said.

When people lack adequate information, Gup said people begin to feel "marginalized and disenfranchised from their government." Ultimately they turn away from participating in the process.

James Fallows, the much respected correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly, had this to say about Nation of Secrets: "Gup provides many new illustrations of the excesses of governmental and corporate secrecy—but he also does something even more significant. He connects hundreds of items from the news of recent years into a pattern that shows how unbalanced America's approach to secrecy has become. I thought I was familiar with the issues Ted Gup addresses, but I learned something from every chapter of this book."

What Gup finds so worrisome about "rampant and obsessive secrecy" is that so many Americans have responded so passively and become accustomed to making decisions without vital information. Such secrecy casts a shadow over their decision related to medical care, product safety, investor choices and legal proceedings, he said.

He documents the transformation of America's court system from one that was historically open to one increasingly conducted in the shadows.

"There has been a multi-front assault on the public's right to know," reported Gup.

Following the publishing of his last best-seller Book of Honor , a revealing look at the lives of fallen and unnamed heroes of the CIA, Gup spent two years working on Nation of Secrets.

"A generation ago, 'the public's right to know' was a U.S. media cliché, but today's silence is deafening. Nation of Secrets explains why," said Kevin Phillips, New York Times bestselling author of American Theocracy.

The first copies of Nation of Secrets to go on sale will do so on the opening day of the 61st Annual Association for Continuing Education Book Sale in Adelbert Gym, 2128 Adelbert Rd. on the Case Western Reserve University campus, starting at noon on Saturday, June 2. Gup will be available on Saturday, starting at noon, to sign copies of his book. He may also be available on Sunday, June 3.

Sales in bookstores begin nationwide on June 5. Gup will give a book signing and talk at Joseph Beth Booksellers in Legacy Village, 24519 Cedar Rd., at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 12. Gup will speak at the Cleveland City Club at noon on Friday, June 8, and will be on NPR's The Diane Rheim Show, Thursday, May 31.

For more information contact Susan Griffith, 216.368.1004.

Posted by: Heidi Cool, June 7, 2007 11:26 AM | News Topics: College of Arts and Sciences, Events, Faculty, HeadlinesMain, Provost Initiatives, Public Policy/Politics

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