Classified: Secrecy and The State In Modern Britain
Ran across this insightful interview conducted by J.P. O’Malley in The Spectator with Christopher Moran on his new book on British secrecy. I’m really excited to get the book as I’ve been interested in secrecy in the UK since reading Ken G. Robertson’s outstanding Public Secrets: A Study in the Development of Government Secrecy (Macmillan, 1982), David Vincent’s Culture of Secrecy: Britain, 1832-1998, and Nicholas Wilkinson’s various works on the D-Notice system.
As someone who uses FOIA in the US on a regular basis, I found Moran’s comments on FOI (freedom of information releases in the UK through the Freedom of Information Act 2000) exceedingly interesting from a comparative perspective:
O’Malley: What has been your own experience of gleaning information since the act was implemented?
Moran: I would say my personal experience of requesting information has a success rate of 50/50. The only way to be successful with the Freedom of Information Act is to be very specific with your request. The problem is that unless someone from within Whitehall, or the national archives has told you a certain document exists: it’s very difficult to get information out of the system. To use the Freedom of Information Act and get proper results, you still have to rely on good contacts, and informants to let you know what is being held in the vaults.