Secret CIA Study Said Secrecy Backfires

"We know that secrecy by its very nature may affect the personality of its practioners," wrote the still-secret author of a 1977 secret study by the CIA, which noted that these "unintended psychological effects ... seem to diminish rather than enhance security." The author, whose study was finally declassified last month, pointed to the example of Pearl Harbor: "That most disastrous of intelligence failures was due in no small measure to the mishandling of compartmented intelligence. The dissemination of decrypted Japanese communications ... was so restricted that the theater commanders in Hawaii did not regularly receive them." For more recent examples, look at the failures of intelligence information-sharing prior to September 11 or the DC sniper case, which also shows that too much secrecy can hinder an investigation. "In the end, it was television reports of information that was not released by the police -- the type of car and license plate of the sniper suspects -- that helped crack the case," observes Washington Post writer Howard Kurtz.