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Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal

Abstract

This article examines the tension between sensitive national security information and transparency in the federal courts. Although courts are public institutions with long histories of public access, courts also have the power to restrict access to information if it poses a threat to national security. In a variety of contexts, restrictions on access have been justified by mosaic theory-the idea that even apparently innocuous information can be harmful to national security interests if pieced together by a knowledgeable observer, such as a foreign intelligence organization. This article traces the development of mosaic theory in the federal courts, and argues that over-reliance on mosaic theory could threaten the availability of public information, undermine judicial independence, and weaken First Amendment access rights.

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