Information Ethics Lecture


Steven AftergoodThe School of Information Sciences’ Institute for Information Ethics and Policy will host a lecture on “The Challenge of Government Security” on Monday, February 4, 2008.  The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will take place at the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh.  The lecture will begin at 4:30 pm and will feature Steven Aftergood, a Senior Research Analyst at the Federation of American Scientists.  Mr. Aftergood specializes in national information security and policy.  His presentation will discuss how many of the most important controversies of our time, from the conduct of domestic surveillance to the detention and interrogation of suspected enemy combatants, have revolved around government secrecy.  Secrecy may be needed to protect certain aspects of national security, but it can also be used to shield incompetence or to evade accountability.  This talk will explain how secrecy is used and misused, and will explore how several current issues illustrate the friction between the impulse to secrecy and societal values such as freedom of the press, democratic decision-making and government accountability.

Steven Aftergood is a senior research analyst at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) specializing in national security information and intelligence policies.  He directs the FAS Project on Government Secrecy, which works to reduce the scope of official secrecy and to promote reform of related security practices.  The Federation of American Scientists, founded in 1945 by Manhattan Project scientists, is a non-profit national organization of scientists and engineers concerned with issues of science and national security policy.

He writes and edits Secrecy News, an email newsletter and blog which is read by more than 10,000 subscribers in media, government and among the general public.

In 1997, Mr. Aftergood was the plaintiff in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency which successfully led to the declassification and publication of the total intelligence budget ($26.6 billion in 1997) for the first time in fifty years.  In 2006, he won a ruling against the National Reconnaissance Office requiring that agency to disclose unclassified budget records.

Mr. Aftergood is an electrical engineer by training (B.Sc., 1977) and has published research in solid state physics. He joined the FAS staff in 1989.

He has authored or co-authored papers and essays in Scientific American, Science, New Scientist, Journal of Geophysical Research, and Issues in Science and Technology, as well as Slate and the New York Times, on topics including space nuclear power, atmospheric effects of launch vehicles, and government information policy.

From 1992-1998, he served on the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board of the National Research Council.

For his work in combating undue secrecy, he received the James Madison Award from the American Library Association (2006);  the Public Access to Government Information Award from the American Association of Law Libraries (2006);  and the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award from the Playboy Foundation (2004).

This lecture series is sponsored by the Institute for Information Ethics and Policy at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Information Sciences and the Johnson Institute for Responsible Government at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.  Funding was also provided by the Elsevier Foundation.  The goal of the Ethics and Policy Institute is to encourage government agencies, corporations, and non-profit organizations building information systems and services to understand and consider ethical and policy issues and to incorporate this understanding into the systems and services.