Exploitation of national security claims
Abusive definition of national interest
Misuse of national interest to avoid political embarrassment
Government ministers, as representatives of political parties, are frequently confronted with situations where it is prudent to claim that the national interest precludes disclosure of certain information. In such situations it is often difficult to discern the extent to which such non-disclosure is primarily to avoid political embarrassment, thus weakening their position in relation to any opposition, and only secondarily to avoid placing the country at a disadvantage in relation to other countries. It is clearly to the advantage of unscrupulous government ministers to use national security and national interest arguments wherever possible. Even when successfully challenged it is always possible to claim that non-disclosure and the avoidance of political scandal facilitate acquisition of international trade and maintenance of the value of the national currency, whether or not the amounts are of marginal significance.
The cover-up surrounding major presidential scandals in the USA, such as Watergate, Irangate and Whitewater, have all documented in detail the challenges faced in this area. The BBCI scandal drew attention to the way in which the presidency of the USA, acting in the name of national security, gave its secret services a free-wheeling licence to operate with scant regard for law and morality. In the UK similar difficulties have been documented in relation to the Matrix Churchill affair (concerning the supply of arms-producing machinery to Iran) documented by the Scott Inquiry in 1993, and the aid-for-trade arrangements associated with the Pergau dam publicized in 1994.