Connelly takes on three tasks: describing the system’s dark labyrinth; cataloging the catastrophic effects of robotic classification on our ability to understand the past; and proposing a computer-driven assault on the empire of secrets. He succeeds admirably in two out of three; the search engine he’s devised is off to a slow start ... The Declassification Engine makes the case that the culture of secrecy diminishes democracy. And it has now become a culture of destruction as well.
Harrowing ... Readers will doubtless look to The Declassification Engine to make sense of the classified files that are now in the news. Yet to insist on the timeliness of Connelly’s research may be to miss its most powerful lesson. There is a much sadder story detailed in the pages of The Declassification Engine — a story about the existential threat that secrecy poses to civic knowledge ... As Connelly suggests, the situation portends something close to 'the end of history as we know it.' Look beyond the headlines, and it’s easy to see why.
An impassioned indictment of America’s culture of official secrecy and a blueprint for how advanced computer-search capabilities could be used to restore our nation’s traditional transparency. His criticism is for the most part balanced ... His argument is generally focused, though it occasionally drifts to important but off-topic subjects like economic policies that favor the rich. He also doesn’t acknowledge that — as big a threat as excessive government secrecy certainly poses to our democracy — the scandals he reveals are all secrets that have since been told. The very existence of his book means our society still allows the free flow of information. But Connelly wants more, and he’s not alone.