the ethics of information
These recent revelations of terror threats haven't caused me to worry so much as they have puzzled me. I'm optimistic in that I don't believe they were done for political reasons, but I can't help thinking that there's a better way to handle this kind of intellegence. At a press conference this morning Tom Ridge, Head of the Department of Homeland Security said that releasing this information is "not about politics, it's about confidence in government." Bush has followed along those lines in comments he's made. Despite my optimism, I still wonder what apolitical purpose this essential "confidence in government" serves. I don't buy is this idea that the Bush administration has graciously shared important information in order to keep amurricans optimistic about how well we're doing fighting terrorism. I do, however, buy the implicit logic that letting the terrorists know we're on to them will hopefully slow or deterr the attacks. If that's what they mean by "confidence in government" then that's fine.
I wonder if there's a better way to achieve the same effect -- letting the plotters know we're on to their plans -- without all the nasty side-effects of public disclosure. For me, these side-effects include: 1.) creating a unnecessairly edgy and panicked citezenry that may affect certain aspects of the economy; 2.) giving the "bad-guys" a clear view of response tactics; and 3.) allowing the impression that terrorist information etc can be used politically, a scenario that may lead people to distrust future warnings.
So maybe you guys can help answer my nagging questions. Does a well informed public aid in its own protection? Is the Government obligated to share threat information? What can be done to achieve all the good effects of letting this out without all the negatives?
Any ideas? Comments?