Robb Moss previously made the documentary The Same River Twice, which expertly moved between footage shot in 1978 and in the present day as a group of friends revisited their youth and ruminated on where life had taken them. It was an absorbing, very personal account that hit on all kinds of hot button social issues -- politics, sexuality and aging among them. So I was quite interested in seeing his latest work, Secrecy, which he made in collaboration with Peter Galison.
Secrecy is somewhat less absorbing, in part because it feels more impersonal than Moss' previous work. The subject this time is U.S. government secrets. Who has them? Who needs them? Who gets to decide what's secret and what's not? Is protecting information really necessary in a free society? What if the government uses the cloak of secrecy to cover up its mistakes? How do you define national security?
Galison and Moss touch on various aspects of secrecy at the outset, and then return to their sources to develop the strands further. Journalist Barton Gellman of The Washington Post talks about traveling to Baghdad shortly after the war began and investigating the government's claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. That led to many other articles questioning government assertions based on material that was classified as secret. As much as anything, Gellman seems to argue that the Bush administration's conduct has been profoundly opposed to real patriotism. In these cases, secrecy hurt.