Is a government ever justified in withholding information that directly impacts its citizens?

The government is not justified in withholding information that directly impacts the citizens except when releasing such information to the public may comprise its security systems or put the public at a precarious position securitywise. For instance Binyam Mohamed was illegally put in detention at the Guantanamo for six years and during this time he was subjected to extreme torture (Duthel 135). After his release from prison last year, Mohamed tried to seek justice for what he went through.

He has mainly tried to secure a day in court but his efforts have futile because it is alleged that his torturers were under protection by powerful individuals within the Obama administration (Duthel 135-141). This is particularly because it is believed that President Obama’s government is on a campaign to prevent details of the Bush administration’s torture program from reaching the citizenry. It is definitely immoral for a government to try and cover for the crimes of its predecessor.

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This is especially because Obama and his Democratic party had it in his manifesto that he would ensure that victims of injustice particularly by previous governments would be given the chance to present their cases in the public domain. Withholding information can lead to a govermment’s image getting tarnished especially if the public discovers that the government has been secretly creating policies that present with extreme consequencies.

The United States government is seen to have quietly created the policies guiding the process of detaining and interrogating terrorism suspects. When the likes of Binyan Mohamed’s case and the scandal at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison come into the open it becomes very difficult for the government to try and explain itself to the public.

Recently, the government has been accused of withholding important information regarding the Fort Hood murders linked to Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan (Capote 323). Ideally, no individual should be above the law and criminals should be subjected to the same legal processes.

For the government to try and cover up a crime in a bid to save face infront of the international community is a crime in itself. The best thing for the government to have done was to present all the incriminating evidence on the part of the major and letting the law follow its due course. This would have served to boost the credibility of the administration and the doubts that currently linger over the reason for the mispresentation of information could have been avoided.

From the examples above, it can be safely agreed that lying in any form does compromise the integrity of a state. Integrity in this instance is defined as an ideology based on consistency in actions and outcomes of such actions either on an individual or group level (James and Merickel 660).

When the state conceals information and the public later comes to learn that information was withheld that could have prevented a terror attack, then it becomes very difficult for the affected government to convince its citizens that it is doing its best to protect them.

For instance, following the September 11 attacks, it has been widely claimed that the CIA had been forewarned about the imminent attacks but instead chose to downplay the threats (Seeger, Sellnow and Ulmer 235). Once the damage had been caused and such information leaked to the public domain, the administration at the time lost all its sense of integrity as its actions were not seen to be consistent with its pronunciations.

The war on terror cannot be a government-only effort. Instead, all the stakeholders should be involved in analyzing key information regarding security. The stakeholders for any particular nation are its citizens and it is only prudent that the people they have chosen to represent them in higher offices appreciate the importance of consultation.

Terrorists are everyday individuals and in some instances are people whose agenda is well known by their neighbors. It is only by the government realizing that it can obtain crucial information from members of the public regarding the strange among their midst that the war on terror can be said to be fought effectively.

The public, however, cannot communicate with a government whose integrity appears to be compromised. Trust has to be established between the citizens and the administration and this can only be achieved if there is bi-directional openness in communication.

The Obama administration has come to realize the importance of openness and transparency as factors of integrity. This was well illustrated when President Obama’s executive order revoked the order by his predecessor, George Bush to limit access to former president’s records following the September 11 attacks.

This action served to revert access to presidential records to the levels originally determined by the presidential records act. This action by President Obama’s government served to promote the agenda of this institution and the action was also well received by the public.

Most of the individuals who argue in favor of the government withholding information claim that in most cases particularly with information regarding to terrorism and other national security issues, releasing crucial information will be detrimental to the state’s well being.

This is particularly because citizens in America like in every other part of the world tend to take any such information and blow it out of context. In this sense, the nation might end up panicky were the state to reveal that terrorists are planning an attack in the country.

Premature revelation of any national security information may also serve to warn the terrorists to make shifts in their plans. They may end up leading the government to believe that they are sticking to the original plan (which the state is already aware of and then change tactics at the last minute to strike in another region where the government has not paid particular attention to.

In conclusion, it is worth noting that as much as withholding information may appear as an admirable strategy for ensuring that the government’s plans in the war on terror are in check, it is likely that such an action can have even dire negative consequences as far as state security is concerned.

It is therefore advisable that the senior government administration, particularly the individuals who advice the president regarding issues of state security consider to open the channels of communication such that public contribution can be entertained. This is a good way for the state to ensure that its integrity is maintained because no action taken by the state can later be said to have been agreed at while leaving the public in the dark.

Works Cited

Capote, Truman. In cold blood: a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences. Massachusetts: Vintage Books, 1993. Print.

Duthel, Heinz. The Closing of Civilization in Europe. Europe with Out Peoples? North Carolina: Lulu.com, 2008. Print.

James, Missy and Alan P. Merickel. Reading Literature and Writing Argument. Third Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice hall, 2008. Print.

Seeger, Mathew, Timothy Sellnow and Robert Ulmer. Communication and organizational crisis. Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003. Print.

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