Democracy and State Secrets

Democracy and State Secrets

Calibrating Public Accountability in Modern Intelligence Gathering

This comparative law project examines the impact of the Internet and digital communications on networked account­a­bil­ity mechanisms in contemporary democracies (ie Germany, USA, UK). Concentrating on modern-day intel­li­gence gathering trends, my principal research question is whether mass ‘full-take’ information surveillance (and its legal authorisation) is consistent with established principles of self-governance, principally theories of separation of powers, judicial review, and democratic ac­count­ability. The scholarship addressing these issues is scarce and exposes a necessity for more sophisticated methodologies. Given that public accountability theory itself has been slow to progress, new ideas and innovative scholarship are urgently required to prevent fast-paced technological developments from overcoming our global freedom of expression laws, conceptual models, and centuries-old ac­count­a­bility networks and constitutional structures. Aimed at the intersections of digitization, domestic intelligence gathering laws, and the efficacy of our public accountability networks, this project ad­dresses a combination of con­tex­tual, legal, and normative questions reflecting the Department’s research agenda. To position scholarly debate within an appropriately sophisticated framework, this project incorporates a meth­od­olog­i­cal blend of comparative study, interdisciplinarity, democratic theorising, statutory interpretation and doc­tri­nal analysis. Substantive out­comes will include a revised, more rigorous understanding of accountability dynamics in contemporary intelligence gathering, an improved ‘systems-based’ model for evaluating democratic account­abil­ity dysfunctions, and important public policy and law reform recommendations applicable to both common law and civil law jurisdictions. Above all, by identifying the constitutional elements vital to regulating public ac­count­abil­ity, we aim to better understand the components and design of sound constitutional orders, perhaps initiating a long-overdue ‘golden age’ of ac­count­ability-based constitutional law scholarship.


Research outcome: peer-reviewed journal articles and manuscript (2020−2024)
Project language: English
Photo: © Gorodenkoff/

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