While the choice between secrecy and transparency has political and cultural salience, this paper questions the logic of such an opposition. Through a consideration of the different attitudes towards secrecy embedded in the Bush and Obama administrations, this paper argues that both positions fail to understand their own relation not only to secrecy itself, but also to each other. They are caught, that is, within the same commonsensical idea of the secret: one that assumes the secret is secreted away, waiting to be exposed. By introducing a third term – Jacques Derrida's “unconditional secret,” a structuring secrecy beyond the logic of revelation – this article questions transparency's link with democracy and its cultural place today as a force of good. Through Derrida's work we must face the proposition that although the choice between secrecy and transparency is presented as one between lesser and greater democracy, both are in fact beholden to democracy's enemy: totalitarianism. This article ends by asking what a post-secret politics might look like.

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