Thursday, January 15 2009 - In the Media
What We Didn't Know Has Hurt Us
By Columbia Journalism Review
Advocates for open and transparent government are quick to note that no American presidential administration has, in practice, been enthusiastic about reducing secrecy in the executive branch--for some obvious and sometimes quite legitimate reasons. There are secrets that almost everyone agrees should remain secret. But secrecy must be balanced with the citizens' right to examine the operations of their government--to learn, to improve, to enforce, and sometimes to shame. That's especially true when there are political or bureaucratic incentives for secrecy that deserve far less respect than true matters of national security. And despite the bipartisan resistance from those in power, the arc of history has trended, if unevenly, toward openness. Claims of excessive secrecy have become a tried and true political battering ram, easily wielded by the party in opposition. Technological evolution has not only made the dissemination of information easier and faster, but also has heightened our appetite for disclosure. The trend isn't confined to the political sphere. Betty Ford's frank discussion of her struggles with cancer and alcoholism in the 1970s marked a new era of openness in our personal medical lives, and the invention of the personal video camera spawned a cottage industry around moments--gaffes, goofs, tragedies--that were once private.
Against that backdrop, there is wide agreement among journalists and openness advocates that the administration of George W. Bush was an aberration, at least in the modern era. Bush and his advisers came into office with a broad vision for a more powerful, less accountable executive branch--a vision that has long been popular in conservative legal circles. Presidential power ebbed after Watergate, when some of the strongest laws promoting transparency were adopted by Congress, reducing the executive branch's ability to do its work in secret. Even before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Bush administration--and especially Dick Cheney, who assumed unprecedented power as vice president--enacted policies and waged court battles to roll back what they saw as unjustified infringements on presidential power, and to reduce the oversight and transparency that had been forced upon the presidency.
Then, just eight months into Bush's first term, September 11 gave the administration what became its defining rationale for a draconian clampdown on the free flow of government information to the public. Presidents traditionally act with the freest hand in matters of national security and, following the attacks, secrecy became both a means to an end and a goal in itself. Information on transportation and energy infrastructure, once easily accessible on government Web sites, was removed. The Justice Department invoked a state-secrets privilege in an extraordinarily wide range of cases. The administration and its conservative allies waged a rhetorical war on journalists who worked to learn and disclose the government's secrets. Legal justifications for the administration's detainee and warrantless wiretapping polices remain shrouded in secrecy today.
Read the rest here: Media Channel
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author, who is solely responsible for its content, and do not necessarily reflect those of 911Truth.org. 911Truth.org will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article.
Fair Use Notice
This page contains copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of political issues relating to alternative views of the 9/11 events, etc. We believe this constitutes a "fair use" of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use", you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
|home | about us | contact | research | grassroots | calendar | links | search|