Secrecy

EPA Boots a Whistleblower

The resignation of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Ombudsman Robert Martin ends his long-running battle to preserve his office and its ability to independently investigate cases where the agency mishandled Superfund sites. His resignation came on the heels of actions taken by EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman to disband his office, including sending agents to confiscate his files and his computers, and to change the locks on his office.

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Censorship Wins Out

The Internet has been hyped as "a revolutionary new medium, so inherently empowering and democratizing, that old authoritarian regimes would crumble before it," but Andrew Stroehlein points out that the reality is more sobering. "The idea that the Internet itself is a threat to authoritarian regimes was a bit of delusional post-Cold War optimism.

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Historians Criticize Bush Secrecy

Richard Reeves, author of an acclaimed work on President Kennedy, has joined other leading historians in criticizing President Bush's executive order last fall that tightened access to presidential records of previous administrations. Currently working on a book about President Reagan, Reeves held up an index of government documents that he has been prohibited from seeing. "There's great determination to prevent these papers from ever becoming public," he said.

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Eighteen Tales of Media Censorship

"Between them, the authors of the incendiary new book Into the Buzzsaw, out this month from Prometheus, have won nearly every award journalism has to give -- a Pulitzer, several Emmys, a Peabody, a prize from Investigative Reporters and Editor, an Edward R. Murrow and several accolades from the Society of Professional Journalists," writes book reviewer Michelle Goldberg. "One is veteran of the Drug Enforcement Administration and a best-selling author, another is a Nieman Fellow at Harvard.

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Close Enough to Count the Casualties

"Wars often have had a profound impact on journalism," writes former journalism professor Betty Medsger. For example, the trend toward "news as entertainment" began with the war in the Persian Gulf in early 1991 when "the military, prepared by its 1980's marketing classes in how to sell a war, set new restrictions and higher levels of censorship that guaranteed coverage would be controlled by the military." That trend continues today, as "marketing practices honed by the Pentagon in the brief Gulf War now seem to be the standard M.O.

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Homefront Confidential

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has issued a special "RCFP White Paper" chronicling the effects the "war on terrorism" has had on media coverage. Available as a free PDF download, the 34-page report outlines actions taken over the last six months by state and federal government agencies that limit the ability of journalists to do their jobs.

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Whose History Is It, Anyway?

"Newspapers may provide a rough draft of history, but archives are where the raw materials are stored," writes Celestine Bohlen. "And so when politicians start messing around with public archives, historians -- and, of course, archivists -- can be counted on to rise up in arms." She details the outrage of historians when former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani in his final days in office decided to move the public records out of City Hall and into a private warehouse. And Giuliani isn't alone.

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Coyote Rummy

The U.S. has imposed more restrictions on reporters in Afghanistan than in any previous U.S. war, but Hollywood has carte blanche to make feel-good "reality TV" shows about the adventure. Maureen Dowd notes that that the Pentagon is teaming with Jerry Bruckheimer, producer of "Top Gun," "Black Hawk Down," "Pearl Harbor" and "Coyote Ugly," along with Bertram van Munster of "Cops," to make a TV docudrama about the war on terrorism. "I'm outraged about the Hollywoodization of the military," says Dan Rather.

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Secrecy and Science

"Science has now become the leading edge of the [Bush Administration's] crackdown on public access to government information," according to the New York Times. The Administration has withdrawn from public access over 6,600 technical reports concerning biological and chemical weapons production on grounds that they might help terrorists or others develop weapons of mass destruction. The Bush Administration is also calling upon scientific societies to impose limits on their scientific publications.

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Hiding in Plain Sight

The records of other Texas governors are stored at the Texas State Library and Archives, but George W. Bush has placed his papers at his father's presidential library at Texas A&M University, thereby "putting them in the hands of a federal institution that is not ordinarily bound by the state's tough Public Information Act," reports the New York Times. "That law, among other things, assures anyone who requests state records a reply within 10 days.

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