At what point does the government have a responsibility to the people to be open and honest? Now, in general, of course, the answer is always. But I mean specifically with regard to safety and security issues.
Let me elaborate with what got me thinking about this.
This morning there was an unusual number of NYPD officers on the subway platform where I catch my train. Sometimes, you’ll see one, maybe two, cops standing on the platform. This morning, there were seven. One of the people I was with asked them what was up, and they answered “just a regular patrol.” Now, that’s clearly not the case, as it was a seven times heavier police presence than regular patrol.
I don’t think that there was necessarily a particular threat against my E train platform. But I began to wonder: what if there was?
Do I have the right to know if the police have specific intelligence of an impending attack on, say, the subway system? Shouldn’t I be allowed to make the decision to walk to work or take a cab instead of the subway?
Sure, that sounds nice. But on the other hand, if every time there was something up it was announced, people would go nuts. Either they would start to ignore the warning (which is a bad thing) or they would behave in such a way as to impede law enforcement’s efforts to stop/catch the perpetrators. Obviously, there has to be some balance about when people are told, and when they aren’t.
Where is that line?