Lords of Secrecy: The National Security Elite and America’s Stealth Warfare

Please join Open Society for a conversation with journalist and human rights lawyer Scott Horton about his new book, Lords of Secrecy, which explores how secrecy has changed the way America functions.

Executive decisions about war and peace are increasingly made by autonomous, self-directing, and unaccountable national security elites. Secrecy is justified as part of a bargain under which the state promises to keep the people safe from its enemies, but in fact allows excesses, mistakes, and crimes to go unchecked. Bureaucracies use secrets to conceal their mistakes and advance their power in government, invariably at the expense of the rights of the people. Never before have the American people had so little information concerning the wars waged in their name, nor has Congress exercised so little oversight over the war effort.

A government accountable to its citizens is one of the foundations of a democratic society. Horton demonstrates how secrecy corrodes democratic institutions, stifles the freedom of information, and protects the powerful from accountability. Lords of Secrecy makes the case that in order to strengthen the rule of law and keep government power in check, we must demand critical debate, civic participation, and above all, transparency.
—George Soros


  • Scott Horton lectures at Columbia Law School; served as counsel to Andrei Sakharov and Elena Bonner, among other activists in the former Soviet Union; is a co-founder of the American University in Central Asia; and since April 2007 has been a legal affairs and national security contributor to Harper’s magazine.
  • Amrit Singh is senior legal officer for national security and counterterrorism with the Open Society Justice Initiative.
Date: May 21, 2015
Time: 6:008:00 p.m.