Secret "versus" open diplomacy across the ages

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Murray, S. (2016). Secret "versus" open diplomacy across the ages. In C. Bjola & S. Murray (Eds.), Secret diplomacy: Concepts, contexts and cases (pp. 13-29).

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Secrecy, the practice of concealing information from certain individuals or groups, is characteristic of many institutions. Businesses keep secrets for competitive advantage, to hide new products under development or to protect cash cows. The recipe for Coca-Cola is a closely guarded secret, as is the key algorithm for Google. Secret societies, from the Freemasons to Yale's Order of the Skull and Bones, abound and intrigue, and secrets can matter in sport, the defensive plays for a Super Bowl or the opening moves for a chess match, for example.

Governments are no different. They conceal information - weapon designs, military operations and diplomatic negotiation tactics, to name but a few - from other governments, the media and the public. Most nations have official secrets acts, secret services and complex rules about access to sensitive information that pertains to national security. In the anarchic international space, secrecy is a competitive, entrenched aspect of the dialogue between states, a murky, clandestine and contentious business often shrouded in mystery. Although accepted as a mainstay of international relations, secrecy is often decried by the media or civil libertarians as excessive, mainly because it conflicts with privacy, openness and transparency.

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