A people who have a government that can do whatever it wants to whomever it wants with no transparency or accountability will be a people who, in no short time, will be secure but oppressed. In the wake of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s use of torture, many have condemned the release of this information defending not only the report’s actions but also the necessity of keeping those actions secret. In one of the most famous movie lines in history, Jack Nicholson’s character in “A Few Good Men” declares that a nation should not question the manner in which its government provides its security because we can’t handle the truth. The truth is that governments can be trusted with the security of the majority but should never be trusted to look out for the freedom of individuals.
Wendell Phillips once said eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. We are entitled to the truth because our government’s power rests in the consent of the governed. When we are unwilling to face our government’s dark efforts to keep us safe, we are blindly handing over our freedom. While the greatest threat to our security may be forces abroad, the greatest enemy to our liberty is the unchecked power of our own government. So, to my government, I say: I want the truth because I can handle it. I want you to keep me safe, but not at the cost of keeping me free.