In October 2002, reason took stock of government transparency in the post-9/11 world. At the time, the Freedom of information Act (FOIA) appeared to be under attack. In "Closing the Books," Jeffrey Benner wrote that restrictions on the kind of information obtainable through FOIA had "watchdog groups from all shades of the political spectrum up in arms. Most of these groups, interested in preserving integrity and good practice in government, rely heavily on FOIA requests to uncover government waste and misconduct."
Since then, America has experienced six years of an anti-transparency president and two years of an ostensibly pro-transparency president who has failed to deliver on his promises. As the state continued to block legal means for the public to obtain information about government activities, especially concerning national security, a new model for transparency emerged: WikiLeaks, a website that solicits and hosts leaked documents of all kinds, aims to acquire troves of data from the world's governments and other institutions, then dumps the information online for anyone to paw through.
In July, WikiLeaks Editor Julian Assange released tens of thousands of documents related to the war in Afghanistan, followed by a similar trove of nearly 400,000 log entries from the war in Iraq. The documents were released...