Past Event

How Can America’s System for Making Secrets Get Back Under Control?

March 7, 2023
6:00 PM - 7:30 PM
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Join us for a panel discussion about the history, and future, of official secrecy, featuring discoveries from Columbia’s History Lab.

Please click here to register

Every year, the U.S. government creates tens of millions of new secrets. Top secret documents have been turning up in the strangest places, triggering Justice Department investigations of both Donald Trump and Joe Biden. What are the consequences for national security and democratic accountability? And what can possibly be done to advance a more rational, risk-management approach to safeguarding dangerous information while accelerating the release of public records?

Join us for a panel discussion about the history, and future, of official secrecy. It will feature new discoveries from Columbia’s History Lab, which has been using artificial intelligence to analyze the world’s largest database of declassified documents. Participants will also bring fresh perspectives from the frontlines of law, journalism, and data science, and discuss whether it would be possible – and wise – to build a “Declassification Engine.”


Emily Bazelon, Senior Research Scholar in Law, and Truman Capote Fellow at Yale Law School

Matthew Connelly, Columbia professor of history and author of The Declassification Engine: What History Reveals about America’s Top Secrets

Barton Gelman, three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and staff writer at The Atlantic

Timothy Naftali, founding director of the Nixon Presidential Library and clinical associate professor of public service at NYU

Chris H. Wiggins, Associate Professor of Applied Mathematics at Columbia and Chief Data Scientist of The New York Times