WaPo’s Dana Priest examines increase of secrecy after 9/11

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On the 11th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the Shorenstein Center welcomed Dana Priest, national security reporter for The Washington Post, to discuss the cost of secrecy and how it affects the relationship between media and government.

In his introduction, Shorenstein Center Director Alex Jones mentioned the New York Times op-ed by Kurt Eichenwald, about the warnings that the Bush administration received in the days and months before the 9/11 attacks. The article highlighted, he said, the difficulties of secrecy and the complicated implications.

Priest opened her talk by posing the question, “What is supposed to be secret?” Her answer was that the U.S. government defines secrets as information that, if revealed, “would do damage to national security.”

After the 9/11 attacks secrecy increased by large margins, Priest said. Because the CIA was smaller and thus more flexible and “nimble,” they were better able to “get boots on the ground” first, before the Defense Department could formulate a military plan of action, Priest explained. And because the CIA is “by nature covert,” she continued, the operation “set in place a regime of secrecy. “