Ever since the 9/11 attacks, Republicans and Democrats have conspired to keep Americans increasingly ignorant of what the federal government does. The number of secret federal documents skyrocketed, and any information that was classified supposedly cannot be exposed without dooming the nation.
Politicians and federal agencies recognize that “what people don’t know won’t hurt the government.” James Madison, the father of the Constitution, declared in 1798 that “the right of freely examining public characters and measures, and of free communication among the people thereon … has ever been justly deemed, the only effectual guardian of every other right.” But this right has faded badly in recent decades. During the 2020 Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer warned that if the Senate did not vote to hear witnesses, “this country is headed towards the greatest cover-up since Watergate.”
Actually, “conventional wisdom” in the nation’s capital is often the result of cover-ups, ignorance, and servility. Daniel Ellsberg, who risked life in prison to leak the Pentagon Papers, observed in 2002, “It is a commonplace that ‘you can’t keep secrets in Washington’ or ‘in a democracy.’ … These truisms are flatly false…. The overwhelming majority of secrets do not leak to the American public.”