Congressional Lawmaking: A Perspective On Secrecy and Transparency (Nov. 30, 2011, R42108) outlines briefly the historical and inherent tension between secrecy and transparency in the congressional process and identifies various lawmaking stages typically imbued with closed door activities. From the report:
Openness is fundamental to representative government. Yet the congressional process is replete with activities and actions that are private and not observable by the public. How to distinguish reasonable legislative secrecy from impractical transparency is a topic that produces disagreement on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. Why? Because lawmaking is critical to the governance of the nation. Scores of people in the attentive public want to observe and learn about congressional proceedings. … Yet secrecy is an ever-present part of much legislative policymaking; however, secrecy and transparency are not “either/or” constructs. They overlap constantly during the various policymaking stages.