The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), established in 1966, is under serious attack by the Bush administration. The “war on terror” has been a pretext for a war on the free-flow of information. That should not surprise anybody, given the players involved: Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Rumsfeld and Cheney tried to subvert the FOIA in 1974 when Nixon was sacked and Rumsfeld and Cheney stormed the halls of the White House during the Ford Administration. It was their effort to deny access to “the tapes” for which they have earned the reputation as obstructors. Bill Moyers, on his weekly program “Now”, did a nice story about the FOIA and the secrecy compulsion of the Bush administration. What is particularly nice about this issue is that other conservatives, outside the reach of the administration, are quite concerned about the information restriction.
This administration, if they could, would write and print everything on invisible ink. The Bushies are obsessed with secrecy and obfuscation. For just a brief compendium of the obsession, look at this list of newspaper articles.
Post-9/11 the Attorney General, John “red alert” Ashcroft, has really made an extra effort of put the clamp down. His memo to all government agencies (the text can be found here) to strenuously resist all FOIA requests has set the tone. Here are just two key phrases from the memo: “No leader can operate effectively without confidential advice and counsel.” And, “When you carefully consider FOIA requests and decide to withhold records, in whole or in part, you can be assured that the Department of Justice will defend your decisions unless they lack a sound legal basis or present an unwarranted risk of adverse impact on the ability of other agencies to protect other important records.”
If you want to send a FAX to our President Emeritus, the Fax number for the Office of the President is 202-456-2461; and you can do it over the Web for free here.
Here is an update to my post about the perverse incentives of this “war on terrorism”. The top dog in the Office of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, is making the rounds, speaking to business groups to assure them that the money will flow, and that this war may never end. [A brief aside: does this goof Tom Ridge sound like G.W. Bush? “We will secure the homeland when your hometown is secure. When every hometown is secure, when we’ve identified risk and secured ourselves as best we possibly can, the homeland will be secure.”] Anyhow, this is some of what Tom Ridge had to say to the Electronics Industries Alliance:
Homeland security gives you the opportunity to be aggressive, the protect Americans and develop new markets and products in the process. It gives you the opportunity to do well by doing good. This entrepreneurial spirit is a potent weapon against terrorism. And it is, in my judgment, what gives America one of our greatest competitive advantages. I’ve often said that homeland security can give us not just a safer and more secure America, but a better America, as well — one that’s ready to compete with any nation in the world. And I think your Alliance is Exhibit A.