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Digital archive of theses discussed at the University of Pisa


Thesis etd-06272016-100557

Thesis type
Tesi di dottorato di ricerca
Thesis title
Transparency in the Public Sector: The United States Experience
Academic discipline
Course of study
tutor Prof. Fioritto, Alfredo
commissario Prof. Della Cananea, Giacinto
commissario Prof.ssa Ammannati, Laura
commissario Prof.ssa Pizzanelli, Giovanna
commissario Prof. Chiti, Edoardo
commissario Prof.ssa Pellegrini, Mirella
commissario Prof.ssa Nugnes, Francesca
  • classified information
  • Freedom of Information Act
  • government secrecy
  • national security
  • public sector
  • transparency
  • United States
Graduation session start date
The purpose of this Ph.D. dissertation is to analyze the United States model of transparency in the public sector. The dissertation moves from the assumption that this model does not coincide with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which is only a component – albeit prominent – of it. Government secrecy, which extends beyond the executive branch, constitutes a comprehensive limit to transparency. At the heart of the concept of government secrecy is the system of classification of national security information, which has implications for each of the three branches of the Federal Government, as the Author shows. Despite several connections with executive branch secrecy, which may be pinpointed at a theoretical level, the relation between transparency and secrecy features its own framework in the legislative and judicial branches. How this relation emerges in the executive branch, however, is the core of the issue, and its study requires distinguishing executive privilege from mandatory disclosure that federal agencies have to ensure under the FOIA. The former is mostly meant in the United States as the power of the President, implicitly recognized by the Constitution, to withhold information from Congress. The exercise of this power affects the carrying out of the congressional oversight function. As to the latter, the FOIA exemptions mold the level of agency disclosure, and the President and the Attorney General establish the extent of disclosure by issuing memoranda on implementation of the FOIA. The Author dwells on exemptions 1 and 5, as their scope embraces most of the issues addressed in the present dissertation. The federal legislation on agency open meetings, which provides for specific exemptions, complete the system of executive branch transparency. In the conclusions, the Author identifies some paradoxes in the United States model of transparency considered as a whole, which, however, turns out to be satisfactory.