Going Dark

Posted: October 11, 2016 - 10:00 , by ROM
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Jameel Jaffer

Blog by Doug Wallace

The culture of government secrecy and society's indifference to it are quickly becoming a troubling trend.

With his talk at the upcoming 11th annual Eva Holtby Lecture on Contemporary Culture, part of the ROM Speaks series, constitutional lawyer and civil liberties advocate Jameel Jaffer will focus on the phenomenon of official secrecy. Zeroing in on the legal, political, and social repercussions of allowing democratic governments to withhold information about national security policy from the public.

Since 9/11, the drive to protect national security has led administrations to become increasingly secretive. With many of the big decisions—on war, interrogation, detention, and surveillance—being made behind closed doors, those who make them are essentially “going dark.”

“Many of the cases I’ve litigated over the past decade have been attempts to pry secrets from the government,” Jaffer says. “Other cases have been efforts to prevent the government from prying secrets from ordinary citizens. I’d like to talk about what’s really at stake in these kinds of cases.”

Born in Kingston, Ontario, Jaffer joined the staff of the American Civil Liberties Union in 2002. He has since become a committed critic of the secretive national security policies of the United States government. He was recently appointed the founding director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, which is dedicated to preserving and expanding the freedoms of speech, association, and the press in the digital age. Jaffer’s new book, The Drone Memos: Targeted Killing, Secrecy, and the Law (The New Press), hits bookstores in November.

With this Holtby Lecture, Jaffer will give visitors a glimpse of what secrecy means for us as a society and as individuals.


Originally published in the Fall 2016 of the ROM magazine.