Government Secrecy

Section 1, Spring 20

Schedule Information

Enrollment: 15/16
Credits: 3

Course Description

There is a tension inherent in the idea of keeping secrets in a democracy. In democratic systems, governments act on behalf of and are answerable to the people, and are subject to oversight by citizens and the media. But not all of what the government does is ­-- or can be -- publicly revealed. How do we strike the proper balance between allowing the government to effectively provide security to its citizens using methods that cannot be revealed publicly, and ensuring that the government operates consistent with the law? This seminar will explore the ways in which each branch of government keeps secrets and whether structural and statutorily-created tools to check secret actions have proven effective. In the Executive Branch context, we will look at the role of classification and the ways in which external actors employ litigation to force the Executive to disgorge secrets. We then will study Congress’s role in enacting secret laws and overseeing secret Executive acts. Here we will use the recent Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA interrogation as a case study. Courts, too, are called on to adjudicate cases that implicate government secrets; we will ask whether systems such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court serve their intended goals of providing effective but non-public oversight. Finally, we will examine the role of unauthorized disclosures of government secrets (that is, leaks) in altering the government secrecy ecosystem.

Course Requirements

Exam Info:
Midterm Type (if any): None
Description: None

Final Type (if any): None
Description: None
Final Exam Notes:


Written Work Product
Written Work Product: Students will be required to write six papers during the semester (3-4 pages each) (all due directly to the professor, not via EXPO). Deadlines to be announced.

Other Work

Other Course Details
Prerequisites: None Concurrencies: None
Mutually Exclusive With: None
Laptops Allowed: Yes
First Day Attendance Required: No
Course Notes:

Graduation Requirements

*Satisfies Writing Requirement: No
**Credits For Prof. Skills Requirement: No
Satisfies Professional Ethics: No

*Yes means professor requires everyone in the course to submit a substantial research paper (which is the requirement standard in Academic Policies), so no paperwork required to be submitted to SRO. No means student must timely submit paperwork to SRO if intending to use a paper in this course to satisfy the Writing Requirement.

**Yes indicates course credits count towards UVA Law’s Prof. Skills graduation requirement, not necessarily a skills requirements for any particular state bar.

General Information

Schedule No.
Law No.
Modified Type
Cross Listed: No
Cross-Listed Course Mnemonic:
Public Syllabus Link: None
Evaluation Portal Via LawWeb Opens:
Evaluation Portal Via LawWeb Closes: