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Simon Jenkins got at some of this in a Guardian column on Wikileaks: “Accountability can only default to disclosure. As Jefferson remarked, the press is the last best hope when democratic oversight fails.” But at the nadir the last best hope failed, too. When that happens accountability defaults to extreme disclosure, which is where we are today.


When governments keep too many secrets, the accountability pendulum is taken to an extreme. When media in democratic society fails in its task to hold governments accountable, the pendulum will likely swing to the opposite extreme, where potentially everything is exposed. This is about where we are with Wikileaks now …

Democratic governments need to remember that information belongs to the people that put them into office – it's not "theirs" to hide from us. Yes – some things DO need to remain confidential, but those things should be the exception, not the rule. When the default is concealment, someone or something will force what is concealed into the open, and the effort involved may expose more than is desirable. Chances are, if we trust our governments to hide only what is absolutely necessary, we won't be inclined to force disclosure.