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Framing national security secrecy: A conceptual review
International Journal  (IF0.836),  Pub Date : 2021-05-18, DOI: 10.1177/00207020211016475
Marlen Heide, Jean-Patrick Villeneuve

This essay investigates justifications for the “necessity” of official secrecy, by tracing and structuring the rationales underlying it. Justifications will be investigated through the case of “national security secrecy,” a prominent example of official secrecy. While the literature generally treats “national security secrecy” as unidimensional, this analysis demarcates several distinct rationales. Specifically, three justifications for national security secrecy are identified: the logic of crisis demanding the suspension of normal democratic processes (threat frame); the need for enabling and enhancing governance (effectiveness frame); and the delegation to and protection of decision makers (elite governance frame). The paper illustrates possible frictions, overlaps, and synergies between different rationales for national security secrecy, thus broadening the existing conceptualization away from transparency and secrecy as direct opposites. It further contributes to ongoing research on national security secrecy from a frame analysis perspective, thus linking theories, justifications, and practices of secrecy.