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Presidents have used secrecy to protect the nation but also to hide their blunders, illnesses, controversial plans, and unethical behavior. As new threats and advancing technology upend old ways, Americans are struggling with the dual challenge of protecting secrets that are essential to democracy and preventing illicit actions behind closed doors that represent its greatest danger.

In Presidents’ Secrets: The Use and Abuse of Hidden Power, government transparency expert Mary W. Graham explains what leaders and the American people can learn from the courage and mistakes of presidents during three earlier crises that altered the role of secrecy in American democracy. She explains how secrecy can grow from abuse or neglect but also why presidents may no longer be able to rely on secrecy to decree policies that affect citizens’ rights and values in the digital age.



Transparency policies create a light-handed approach to governance that improves markets, enriches public discourse, and empowers citizens. But much can go wrong with these policies. To be effective, they must be accurate, keep ahead of disclosers’ efforts to find loopholes, and focus on the needs of ordinary citizens. 

Explains the complicated issues behind the seemingly simple idea of government mandated transparency through detailed studies of nutritional labeling to reduce chronic diseases, failed efforts to provide disclosure of medical errors, and the mixed experience of toxic chemical disclosure. 

This book explores how policymakers, business executives, and citizen

groups are fighting novel political battles about environmental protection

and sometimes coming up with surprising and practical compromises. 

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