our right to know
by Jim Hightower
When George W's Pentagon issues a million-dollar grant to a university to study recent state laws that affect open government and freedom of information, you know it's not good news.
This is, after all, an administration that hates sunshine and has been the most aggressive in history at trying to shut out the public, the congress, the courts and the media from getting even a peek at what they're doing behind the drawn curtains of the White House. For example, they've increased by 81 percent the number of government documents marked "secret" — setting a new presidential record by taking more than 15 million public papers a year out of public view. Also, two-thirds of their advisory committee meetings have been completely closed, it now takes up to five years to get a response to a freedom-of-information request, and Dick Cheney claims that he can single-handedly remove any document he chooses from public view without telling anyone — even the president.
Not content to close the doors of the federal government, the Bushites are now pushing state governments to close theirs. One step is the million-dollar research grant given to Jeffrey Addicott, a professor at the "center for terrorism law" at St. Mary's University in Texas. Addicott, a former legal advisor to the Army, says he intends to develop a "model statute" for states to adopt to shield public information from... well, from the public.
Sure, the professor says, there's a public right to know, "but how much?" He adds that, "There's too much stuff that's easy to get that shouldn't be."
Every dictatorship and repressive government in history has said the same thing. As Judge Damon Keith recently put it, "Democracies die behind closed doors." To keep a vigilant watch on Bush's push for secrecy, call the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press: 800-336-4243.
Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Let’s Stop Beating Around the Bush, on sale from Viking Press. For more information, visit www.jimhightower.com
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