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Secret Policies

This Article examines secret agency policies. Clearly when the directives relate to military or national security matters, secrecy is essential. But should the public be viewers of the DACA Manual’s guidance on when administrative relief will be provided to immigrants brought to the U.S. as children by their undocumented parents? What about the Department of Justice policy related to the dismissal of False Claims Act cases or the written procedures that are used by Assistant United States Attorneys in providing criminal discovery to defense counsel? Written policies veiled in secrecy can be detrimental to achieving transparency and legitimacy in government.

In focusing on these written internal policies that do not pertain to a specific legal matter, this Article looks beyond the Freedom of Information Act and its exemptions. It discusses the need to maintain an appropriate balance between government transparency and the need for some matters to be kept private, and the importance of agency expertise, accountability, and efficiency in determining a need for transparency. Factored into this equation are the ethical repercussions of secret policies when government employees leave the agency with inside information.

The full text of this Article is available to download as a PDF.