Terrorist threats, information disclosures, and consumer sovereignty
This paper proposes the use of consumers’ preferences in formulating policies for keeping secret information about terrorist activities and threats that might compromise future security. We report the results from two surveys indicating that support for government secrecy varies across situations depending on the threat and context. A majority of respondents preferred full disclosure of some information related to terrorist threats regardless of the consequences for specific industries or future threats, in particular threats involving attacks on commercial airlines. However a majority of respondents were willing to allow government authorities to withhold information about the details of threats to the financial system and to buildings if revealing the information might compromise future investigations. While the public generally recognizes the importance of keeping some information secret, a democratically elected government should seek to understand the preferences of its citizens on important policy issues related to public safety and security.