CAMBRIDGE, England—For 38 years, I worked in a world governed by rules of secrecy. Knowledge was compartmented and needing to know something was the principle that governed one’s right to know it. Did that system serve a useful purpose? Unequivocally it did. It was there to protect, in perpetuity if necessary, the identity of the sources, human and technical, that provided the intelligence that contributed to the creation of effective defense, foreign, and national security policies. Did that useful purpose in turn serve the public interest and the interests of individual citizens? It would be difficult to argue that it did not, particularly when the overarching threat that those policies were designed to counter was for the majority of my intelligence career thermonuclear obliteration. Why today are we apparently so uncertain about a government’s need for secrecy? Why are those who...

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