[Homestead] Worst possible government is secret government
tvoivozd at infionline.net
Tue Sep 21 11:41:32 EDT 2004
Guess where and by which Maximum Leader. Hint---it isn't Putin, bad as
he is, not China's Hu either, and news travels fast even in Iraq's
It is here in the good old U.S. of A. that the black hole of Federal
Government snuffs out the citizenn's "Right to Know".
Ah-h-h---isn't it wonderful that our Maximum Leader brought this kind of
integrity to the Oval Office---the kind of integrity found on toilet tissue.
The Boston Globe <http://www.boston.com/news/globe/>
Bush's passion for secrecy
By Renée Loth | September 21, 2004
SOME MAY be tempted to dismiss this column as more self-interested
whining from the media, but stick with it -- it's really about the
/public's /right to know, not the media's. The Bush administration,
resistant to scrutiny even before Sept. 11, has drawn a cloak of secrecy
over its official actions that has steadily insulated it from the
taxpayers. John Dean, counsel to Richard Nixon during the Watergate
scandals, says the administration is using regulations and
administrative actions to achieve what it could not get through
Congress: an official secrets act.
"Their secrecy is extreme -- not merely unjustified and excessive but
obsessive," Dean writes in his book, "Worse than Watergate." Indeed,
when it comes to closed government, the Bush administration makes the
Nixon White House look like the public library.
Bush has expanded the number of agencies with authority to classify
documents as secret, including Health and Human Services, the
Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Agriculture. In
March, 2003 he signed an excutive order allowing a broad range of
documents to be kept beyond the reach of the public for up to 25 years.
The number of documents classified in the Bush administration increased
by over 50 percent since 2001. Freedom of Information Act requests,
meanwhile, are increasingly subject to delays, costly fees, and exemptions.
The president doesn't read newspapers much, considers the press
"filters" that get in the way of his message to voters, and simply
rejects what they teach in journalism school: that the press is an
important two-way conduit between the government and the governed.
Fine. But even on the campaign trail, supposedly the one opportunity
every four years when voters get direct access to the candidates, Bush
is staying under wraps. The Republicans screen ticketholders to campaign
events and require signed loyalty oaths for attendance at some rallies.
The home-viewing public sees nothing but adoring crowds. Anyone sneaking
past the radar to protest is summarily escorted from the room.
California congressman Henry Waxman released a 90-page study last week
detailing what he called "an unparalleled assault on the principle of
open government." It describes whole realms of information that have
been pulled from public view: reports of chemical releases taken off EPA
websites; auto and tire safety information sealed by the Traffic Safety
Administration. The so-called "critical infrastructure" provisions of
the Homeland Security Act, passed in 2002, even allow private companies
to protect damaging information from public disclosure and civil
lawsuits. Any government official who releases the information faces
criminal prosecution. Waxman has filed legislation to correct the most
The administration is aided in its moves to shut off public access not
just by national security concerns since Sept. 11, but by Americans'
growing mania for privacy, especially with the advent of the Internet.
For most Americans, privacy trumps openness.
A vivid example occurred in February 2001, when the race car driver Dale
Earnhardt was killed in a crash in Florida. The Orlando Sentinel
newspaper asked to examine the autopsy photos, not because editors
intended to print them, but as part of an ongoing investigation into
NASCAR safety. The reaction from the greiving family and Earnhardt fans
was swift and fierce. Within days, Governor Jeb Bush had signed
legislation making it a felony to release autopsy photos, and several
other legislative assaults on the state's "sunshine laws" followed.
But under the guise of enhancing privacy, the government often actually
enforces secrecy -- to the harm of average Americans. The federal
Drivers Privacy Protection Act can prevent parents in some states from
discovering whether school bus drivers have drunken-driving arrests on
their their records. The "critical infrastructure" cloak in the Homeland
Security Act can prevent citizens groups from learning if toxic
chemicals are being stored or released in their neighbrohoods, or to use
the information in court if they do find out.
White House aides deny the Bush administration has a particular penchant
for secrecy, saying all presidents try to control access to sensitive
information. But this administration has done something about it. In
2001, Bush issued an executive order rolling back the Presidential
Records Act. The order shifts the burden of accessing presidential
archives to the public; scholars could be forced to sue for memos and
records of former presidencies. So even history may never know what Bush
really intended when he pulled the wool over the people's eyes. **
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