Government Secrecy Causes Conspiracy Theories

Due to the CIA’s refusal to be transparent about the exact nature of its involvement in Syria,  people are left to fill in the knowledge gaps with their own speculation, writes Caitlin Johnstone.

Aerial view of CIA Langley, Virginia. (Carol M. Highsmith, Wikimedia Commons)

By Caitlin Johnstone

The DC Circuit has ruled that the CIA is under no obligation to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests pertaining to its involvement with insurgent militias in Syria, overturning a lower court’s previous ruling in favor of a Buzzfeed News reporter seeking such documents.

As Sputnik‘s Morgan Artyukhina clearly outlines, this ruling comes despite the fact that mainstream news outlets have been reporting on the Central Intelligence Agency’s activities in Syria for years, and despite a US president having openly tweeted about those activities.

“In other words, the CIA will not be required to admit to actions it is widely reported as having done, much less divulge documents about them to the press for even greater scrutiny,” Artyukhina writes, calling to mind the Julian Assange quote “The overwhelming majority of information is classified to protect political security, not national security.”

The CIA’s brazen collaboration with dangerous extremist factions seeking to topple Damascus, and its equally brazen refusal to provide the public with any information about the extent of its involvement in Syria from the earliest stages of the violence in that nation onwards, will necessarily provide fodder for conspiracy theories.

It is public knowledge that the CIA was involved in the Syrian war to some extent, it is public knowledge that the CIA has a well-documented history of doing extremely evil things, and it is public knowledge that the US government has long sought control over Syria. Due to the agency’s refusal to be transparent about the exact nature of its involvement in that nation, people are left to fill in the knowledge gaps with their own speculation.

Of course they will do this. Why wouldn’t they? Why would anyone give the lying, torturing, propagandizingdrug traffickingcoup-stagingwarmongeringpsychopathic Central Intelligence Agency the benefit of the doubt and assume their actions in Syria have been benevolent just because the hard facts have been hidden behind a wall of government secrecy? 

Yet they will be expected to. Anyone with a sufficient degree of influence who comes right out and says the CIA knowingly armed violent jihadists with the goal of orchestrating regime change in Syria will be attacked as a crazy conspiracy theorist by the narrative managers of the establishment media. If their words are really disruptive to establishment narratives, there will be calls to deplatform, unemploy, and ban them from social media.

And really such is the case with all the melodramatic garment rending about the dangers of conspiracy theories today. All the fixation on the way unregulated speech on the internet has contributed to the circulation of conspiracy theories conveniently ignores the real cause of those theories: government secrecy.

If the most powerful government in the world were not hiding a massive amount of its behavior behind increasingly opaque walls of secrecy, people would not need to fill in the gaps with theories about what’s happening, because there would be no gaps; they would simply see what’s happening. 

“But Caitlin!” one might object. “How could America engage in all its military operations around the world if it didn’t keep information about its behaviors a secret?”

Exactly, my smooth-brained friend. Exactly.

Government secrecy is indeed necessary for winning wars. Government secrecy is also necessary for starting those wars in the first place. US government agencies have an extensive history of using false pretenses to initiate military conflicts; if they could not hide the facts behind a veil of government opacity, the public would never engage in them.

The American people would never have allowed their sons to go to Vietnam if they’d known the Gulf of Tonkin incident was a lie. They’d never have sent their sons and daughters to invade Iraq if they’d known weapons of mass destruction were a lie. They would lose the support of the public, and the international community would refuse to back them.


Protecting the lives of foreign military and intelligence personnel is the primary argument against government transparency in the United States, a premise which takes it for granted that there need to be foreign military and intelligence personnel at all. The only reason the lives of troops and intelligence officers would be endangered without massive walls of government secrecy is because those personnel are out there facilitating imperialist acts of mass murder and tyranny. The argument is essentially “Well we can’t tell you the truth about what’s happening in our government, because it would mean we’d have to stop doing extremely evil things.”

The argument that the internet needs strict censorship to eliminate dangerous conspiracy theories takes it as a given that simply eliminating government secrecy is impossible, which in turn takes it as a given that the U.S. government cannot simply stop inflicting grave evils around the world. Our ability to share information with each other online is therefore ultimately being increasingly choked off by monopolistic Silicon Valley megacorporations because no one in charge can fathom the idea of the United States government ceasing to butcher human beings around the world.

That is the real underlying argument over internet censorship today. Should people have free access to information about what their own government is doing, or should their government be permitted to do evil things in secret while people who form theories about what they’re doing are shoved further and further away from audibility? That’s the real debate here.

The powerful should not be permitted to keep secrets from the public. They should not be permitted to jail journalists who try to reveal those secrets to the public, and they should not be permitted to collaborate with monopolistic corporations to censor people who form theories about those secrets. The amount of secrecy you are entitled to should be directly inverse to the amount of power that you have.

The US government has powerful agencies whose literal job is to conspire. The fact that people are punished and condemned for forming theories about how that conspiring might take place, even while those agencies are completely lacking in transparency, is abusive.

If the government was not doing evil things in secret, then it wouldn’t need secrecy. If the government didn’t have secrecy, there would be no conspiracy theories. Stop pointing your attacks at powerless people who are just trying to figure out what’s going on in the world amidst a sea of government secrecy and propaganda, and point them at the power structures that are actually responsible for the existence of conspiracy theories in the first place.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium.  Her work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking her on Facebook, following her antics on Twitter, checking out her podcast on either YoutubesoundcloudApple podcasts or Spotify, following her on Steemit, throwing some money into her tip jar on Patreon or Paypal, purchasing some of her sweet merchandise, buying her books Rogue Nation: Psychonautical Adventures With Caitlin Johnstone and Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.

This article was re-published with permission.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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10 comments for “Government Secrecy Causes Conspiracy Theories

  1. Eric
    February 15, 2021 at 21:36

    The CIA and MI6 would also be extremely reluctant to reveal their involvement
    with the so-called ‘White Helmets’ group in Syria.

    But CIA trolls and acolytes are quite happy to smear
    without providing evidence.

  2. robert e williamson jr
    February 15, 2021 at 19:57

    The analysis of a set of facts in their relations to one another, one of several definitions of ” theory”, they list six in total..

    Given the preponderance of recently discovered facts point directly to, in the case of the JFK murder, the CIA having vast knowledge of Lee Harvey Oswald long before the JFK death. WOOPSIE!

    CIA representatives have been proven to be lying about what and when they knew about Oswald. In addition when the facts are studied the apparent motive for the lies has been and effort by CIA to prevent CIA connection to him. In other words individuals at CIA planned definite courses of actions to build such cover.

    CIA involved itself in a conspiracy to secret their knowledge of LHO. They did this in an obviously apparent effort to camouflage and conceal their involvement in the crime and thus be removed from suspicion of being involvement.

    Now it is apparent that their efforts, efforts mainly engineered by one Jesus James Angleton, and the facts that support this knowledge lead directly to one James Jesus Angleton as being in a leadership role in the crime.

    Those individuals responsible for gleaning these facts from historical records have proven they have a valid theory about CIA involvement in the killing. This theory holds that members of CIA, very high ranking members of CIA, many of whom served in the OSS were actively involved in planning, supporting and initiating actions that culminated in the death of JFK and over one hundred others.

    This EXECUTIVE ACTION was the direct result of a conspiracy among a select few extremist radicals who were in leadership roles some at CIA and others well known by the leadership of CIA, members of the military and other well known leaders in the U.S. government.

    They were a disgruntled group who hated JFK.

    The facts are undisputable to all but the U.S. courts, judges, and other members of DOJ and the rest who live in a CIA created alternate reality.

    A reality constructed by those who designed CIA in the first place.

    There are almost always reasons, and good reasons individuals think in terms of people having conspired in order to create an advantage or otherwise effect significant gain for themselves. Especially when they have been lied to. In the case of JFK murder the lies have never stopped coming from CIA or DOJ.

    Mistrust of CIA is unanimous in some circles for we all realize one can never reason when CIA is lying or when it is not. CIA leaders brag about their lying. SEE the GREAT POMPOUS ASS POMPIEO. The lie is the fundamental work horse of those who conspire. Lie, omit or otherwise conceal the truth and or facts.

    Disgruntle: Merriam Websters – alien, alienate, disaffect, estrange or sour.

    Same with disgruntle, something causes this phenom. I have stated previously that one does not simply wake one morning and decide to go to work and shoot as many folks as they can. Usually investigations find a significant reason for why a certain person caused such an event to occur.

    English is a great language when used accurately.

    Lawyers, judges and the MSM seldom do it justice. Conspiracy theory, identity politics, disgruntled and liberal all terms most Americans never correctly use other than to use them as slang as to smear another. The result of laziness or out right ignorance.

    CIA must think that since their system of lying about everything isn’t broken, so why change it. This doesn’t say much for their intelligence.

    Great Stuff Caitlin

    Thanks CN

  3. rosemerry
    February 15, 2021 at 15:14

    Right on the point. It also seems to be obvious that the USA assumes other countries act in the same evil way, and cannot comprehend that sometimes others tell the truth and even want to avoid conflict!!!
    “Interfering with our elections” -honestly, can any real sentient human ignore the money, the lobbies, the corruption, the absolute lack of any semblance of democracy in US elections, caused by Americans themselves???
    “Aggression against the USA” – Iran, no attacks for centuries. China- daring to compete, vast agreements with dozens of other nations, no known attacks on the USA Russia -dares to reclaim a Russophone island the NATO forces were trying to take over, so is accused of “annexation”; Works for 4 years with pro-Western government in Ukraine 2010-14, then is attacked at once when pro-Russian government wins. (dear democrat Nuland is still to be allowed to add to the chaos in Biden’s team).
    Seeing evil in others when it is really your own reflection is the American way.

  4. Mary
    February 15, 2021 at 10:02

    My silver-foil hat, that is in the shop, is off to you, Caitlynn that suffers some women gladly. I lurk here, mostly.

  5. February 14, 2021 at 23:00

    The Obama administration illegally shipped tons of weapons to foreign terror groups in Syria. Hillary Clinton was a key player, as Assange documented.


  6. February 14, 2021 at 20:34

    I’m honestly wrestling with this whole secrecy concept. Does it have a time function?
    Even if it does, I think trying to hide the facts is a fools game because the truth is always revealed.
    I believe I may have posted a comment or two at the rogue journalist site that is the source of this article and sometimes if you want to get the the bottom of something you have to go to the source. The original source if possible.
    And the point of this is? Just remember, we know, we know, we know, we know, and there are many of us, and we know. We already know the truth. We know the truth about who assassinated whom this time and that (there have been many) and we know that there are always consequences for taking life into your own hands or ordering the killing of another. Those who ordered the assassinations must know that if you authorize the bullet to the brain then that kind of thing can flip around in just a single revolution. It could happen in a day or two. Or it could happen in the blink of an eye. If you are a spook, it could happen the moment the People choose to stop believing the lies and untruths, and ain’t it evident, that moment is upon us. It will be a big part of the reckoning as I sense it. What do you think?
    Anyhow, why not go to the original source of this article and check out the comments. What could be the harm in that? It ain’t like you would be pissing off the Irish Mob now is it? Ha, ha.
    Happy Valentine’s Day

  7. GMCasey
    February 14, 2021 at 15:08

    There have aways been spies and wars too in every government, so I suppose that the Pompeo person was being honest when he said of the CIA, “We lie, we cheat, we steal.” I aways thought it was sad that the Dulles bros both had such a big influence on the Kennedy Commission to cover up what they no doubt did. And I also suppose that the novel “1984,” if spy awfulness had not already begun by 1984—then it was certainly a model for what was already happening. If America really knew what it was doing , we wouldn’t be in so many useless wars—There seems to be no point in winning, but merely provide employment for the many in Congress to work a side job. I look at the Preamble on occasion and wonder, why aren’t we following what the Founders suggested?

  8. February 14, 2021 at 12:19

    “Government Secrecy Causes Conspiracy Theories”

    Indeed, but it is only the proximate cause.

    The secrecy exists because government is doing things it should not be doing – unethical, immoral, and even illegal things.

    That activity is the ultimate cause, and it is a good thing to keep in mind.

    Secrecy itself is too easily blurred by concepts like national security.

    Conspiracy theories are grounded ultimately in very real acts of theft, murder, and mayhem by government, and those activities should be of far greater concern in a free society because they represent extreme corruption and rot.

  9. Dfnslblty
    February 14, 2021 at 12:12

    Theories and continued illegal and immoral violence.

    The The DC Circuit judge should be given the exact same absolution/acquittal as congress people at The Capitol were treated to by the ex’s thugs!

  10. February 14, 2021 at 12:00

    nice information…………

Comments are closed.