Doctoral thesis

Secrecy in the age of transparency : an investigation into legitimations, conceptions and practices of non-disclosure


151 p.

Thèse de doctorat: Università della Svizzera italiana, 2019 (jury note: Summa cum laude)

English The objective of this research is to illustrate the complexity and fluidity of the relationship between secrecy and transparency by considering the multiple rationales that serve to justify secrecy. The conceptual contribution of this thesis lies at two levels: (1) the reconceptualization of national security secrecy from realism to risk management and (2) the implications of such reconceptualization to the understanding of secrecy and transparency as antipodes. The thesis takes an interdisciplinary perspective—drawing on conceptual contributions from the field of security studies—which has thus far not been comprehensively considered in research on national security secrecy. Consequently, the thesis explores how understanding of security itself determines secrecy practices and justifications. The research perspective is decisively interpretive. Instead of accepting “security” as a universally accepted exemption to the norm of transparency, this analysis investigates both the rationales underlying it as well as their applications, thus providing a more nuanced understanding of the way in which secrecy might be legitimized. Hence, this thesis seeks to move beyond the narrow, positivist approach to the question of how boundaries between secrecy and transparency are negotiated in democracies. Finally, the thesis also provides a comparative perspective on state secrecy. Most empirical evidence on secrecy provisions and practices is structured around the U.S. case. This lack of comparative perspective can be assumed to lead to a weak conceptualization of secrecy. This analysis focusses secrecy in a variety of additional contexts, especially considering classification frameworks that were subject to reform. Thus, the analysis provides a perspective on both temporal and spatial variation.
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