Address by the Honorable Edward H. Levi Attorney General of the United States Before the Association of the Bar of the City of New York   [open pdf - 2MB]

"I would like to speak to you this evening about confidentiality and democratic government. The subject is an important one. It is complicated and has many facets. I do not suggest there are easy answers. I do suggest, however, that public understanding of the issues involved and the relationship among the issues is extremely important. The bar as a profession has an enormous responsibility to help clarify these issues. My belief is that understanding may be increased by putting together certain doctrines and values with which most of us would agree. The relationship among these doctrines and values may have been obscured in the recent past. If hard cases sometimes make bad law, emergency situations also have distorted our perspective. The public good requires that we try to correct that distortion. In recent years, the very concept of confidentiality in government has been increasingly challenged as contrary to our democratic ideals, to the constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression and freedom of the press, and to our structure of government. Any limitation on the disclosure of information about the conduct of government, it is said, constitutes an abridgement of the people's right to know and cannot be justified. Indeed, it is asserted that governmental secrecy serves no purpose other than to shield improper or unlawful action from public scrutiny. This perception of the relationship between confidentiality and government has been shaped in large measure by the Watergate affair. The unfortunate legacy of that affair is a pervasive distrust of public officials and a popular willingness to infer impropriety. Skepticism and distrust have their value; they are not the only values to which our society must respond."

Public Domain
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United States Deptartment of Justice: http://www.justice.gov/
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Address by the Honorable Edward H. Levi. New York City, NY. April 28, 1975.
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