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By Ian Cobain
In 1889, the 1st authentic secrets and techniques Act was once handed, developing offences of 'disclosure of knowledge' and 'breach of respectable trust'. It constrained and monitored what the general public may well, and may, be informed. given that then a tradition of secrecy has flourished. As successive governments were selective approximately what they decide to proportion with the general public, we've got been left with a distorted and incomplete knowing not just of the workings of the country yet of our nation's tradition and its prior. during this vital new e-book, Ian Cobain deals a clean appraisal of a few of the main moments in British background because the finish of WWII, together with: the measures taken to hide the lifestyles of Bletchley Park and its successor, GCHQ, for 3 a long time; the unreported wars fought in the course of the Nineteen Sixties and Nineteen Seventies; the hidden hyperlinks with terrorist cells in the course of the problems; the occasionally opaque workings of the felony justice approach; the state's peacetime surveillance ideas; and the handy loopholes within the Freedom of knowledge Act. Drawing on formerly unseen fabric and rigorous study, The historical past Thieves finds how a posh bureaucratic computing device has grown up round the British country, permitting governments to sidestep responsibility and their secrets and techniques to be buried.
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Extra resources for The History Thieves: Secrets, Lies and the Shaping of a Modern Nation
As a consequence, fresh attempts were made to impress upon civil servants the need for discretion. Sir Ralph Lingen, the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, issued a minute entitled ‘Premature Disclosure of Official Documents’, in which he declared that breaches of official confidence were ‘offences of the gravest character’ to which most the honourable civil servant would never stoop. Moreover, he said: ‘The unauthorised use of official information is the worst fault a civil servant can commit.
The second complained that the new law did not go far enough. ‘Until the Government deals with the press,’ he said, ‘nothing in connection with this matter will be satisfactory. Instead of attacking the poor clerk, the government should go further and attack the real offenders – the people who obtain secrets and publish them for profit. 18 Again, the Bill was approved. Britain’s first Official Secrets Act had passed through both Houses after three debates that lasted a total of nine minutes. Inevitably, given the speed with which the Bill was passed, it contained several flaws.
The Act provided for a single repository of government papers, which was completed in 1858, and its reading rooms opened in Chancery Lane in central London eight years later. It was the accepted wisdom that transparency, or ‘publicity’, as it was called, was the only means by which to promote political and social wholesomeness and truth, and few were prepared to disagree. ’ As the right to vote was extended, Bentham warned, publicity, regular elections and a free press were needed to protect the public from the ‘bullies, blackguards and buffoons’ who might be returned to power.
The History Thieves: Secrets, Lies and the Shaping of a Modern Nation by Ian Cobain