An essential pillar of democracy is openness. There is no way that people can meaningfully participate in government, even if only by voting for representatives, if they do not have access to accurate information related to government operations. This was well understood by the founders of the US and embedded in the Bill of Rights. Conversely, a salient characteristic of undemocratic systems of all types, such as Czarist Russia, the Soviet Union, and Nazi Germany is a high degree of governmental secrecy.
The standard excuse for the suppression of governmental information is national security. In practice, it is improperly used in most situations, i.e., there is no legitimate reason for keeping secret the great majority of information classified secret by the government. Secrecy is used to conceal abuse of power, illegality, corruption, incompetence, and waste. A common instance of misuse of secrecy is when government officials make statements to reporters on controversial matters under the condition that they not be identified in the published stories. Below, I discuss how secrecy is being misused in the US. But first, consider when secrecy does make sense.