In the aftermath of 9/11, Congress gave the U.S. Justice Department substantial new powers to wiretap and spy on suspected terrorists, but the Justice Department refuses to tell Congress what it is doing with those powers.
"The Bush administration's refusal to cooperate with even the most routine and basic congressional requests for information is infuriating members of Congress and violating congressional rights and responsibilities," reports Alexander Bolton in The Hill, a newspaper for Washington insiders. Republicans and Democrats alike in Congress are complaining about the secrecy, which extends beyond issues like national defense and foreign policy and includes areas such as environmental, educational and science issues.
The Government Printing Office, which is responsible for printing the multitude of documents produced by the federal government, may be abolished according to an order by the White House Office of Management and the Budget. The OMB describes the order as a cost-saving measure, but critics say it may cost more money than the present system. Worse, it threatens public access to information.
Whistleblowers play a vital role in stopping government misconduct, but they often pay a heavy price. "Retaliation can include marginalization, firings, loss of promotions, and even death threats," writes Katherine Uraneck. Thomas Devine of the Government Accountability Project says whistleblowers should expect some retaliation. "Before sticking their necks out, whistleblowers should carefully plan a survival strategy," he advises.
In the last decade, 26 countries have enacted formal statutes guaranteeing their citizens' right of access to government information. Now freedom of information advocates have a global internet link: freedominfo.org, a virtual network that offers summaries of existing laws governing access to information in 45 countries, along with current news and analysis.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has joined senators Chuck Grassley and Patrick Leahy in warning that the Bush Administration's proposed new cabinet-level Homeland Security Department threatens long-standing American freedoms while eliminating legal safeguards necessary to keep the agency open and accountable to the public.
"Security guards, secret guest lists and silent sponsors were not what some participants were expecting when they turned up at a meeting in Sydney earlier this year to discuss new medicines. Billed as a 'Collaborative Forum' at the University of NSW, the invitation had been signed by three medical groups including Arthritis Australia. Academic kudos for the forum was provided by a major report prepared by the University of Canberra.
The news media is generally failing to report the historic verdict against the FBI in the 1990 bombing of non-violent environmental activists Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney. That would not surprise Judi, were she alive today. In her book Timber Wars she described how the news media eagerly parroted the FBI's lies and deception, casting Bari and fellow bomb victim Cherney as terrorists. "The news quickly went national, with newspapers across the country screaming about Earth First!ers carrying bombs. It was the only time we ever made the front page of the New York Times.
"The Pentagon has made a decision that threatens to keep the American public and Congress in the dark about how things are going with the Bush administration's high-priority missile defense program," says Philip E. Coyle III, a former U.S. assistant secretary of defense. "Equally disturbing," he adds, is the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency "new policy of withholding information from the Pentagon's own independent review offices, such as the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation.