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No Need To Know

SecrecylargeIt is a truism of authoritarian regimes that the more information they collect on you, the less information they are willing to share about themselves.  The Bush-Cheney regime gave early signals of its intentions when George Bush transferred his papers as Governor of Texas to his father's Presidential Library, thus "shielding his years as governor from the kind of scrutiny that might have revealed the extent of his dealings with scandal-ridden corporations such as Houston-based Enron, or with the oil-and-gas lobby now fueling much of the White House's energy policies."   

The quote is from Pierre Tristram's excellent review of the Bush regime's "unprecedented, systematic assault on openness" through the first three years of the administration.  He reminds us that in 2001, Bush signed an  Executive Order allowing Presidential papers to be held closed beyond the 12 year limit mandated by the law.   He reminds us of the 10-month fight by the GAO to obtain details of Cheney's Energy Task Force meetings; a fight that was lost when a Bush-appointed judge ruled for secrecy.  He reminds us that A-G Ashcroft encouraged government departments to resist Freedom of Information requests. Tristram concluded that "secrecy has become a pathalogical impulse at every level of government."

Now, we see further evidence of their desire to restrict your knowledge.  In what has been characterized as

"a momentous expansion of the apparatus of government secrecy, the Department of Homeland Security is requiring employees and others to sign legally binding non-disclosure agreements as a condition of access to certain categories of unclassified information  Up to now, non-disclosure agreements have only been used ... to regulate access to classified information ... such classification-like controls have never before been systematically imposed on access to unclassified information." 

That kind of general restriction is further strengthened with additional measures for specific information.  For example, as reported by the Los Angeles Times:

"Tucked within the House's 497-page version of the "9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act" is a provision to repeal the requirement that senior-level officials report their personal financial assets valued at more than $2.5 million. It also would end the practice of disclosing the dates of stock transactions ... The new disclosure provision was included during the conference committee negotiations. "They're burying it in a large bill that is very controversial on other issues, so no one is going to pay any attention to this," said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, a government watchdog group."

And why is this so important at this time?  Because "[i]n 2002, the Center for Public Integrity revealed that 22 of the top 100 Bush administration officials had "significant" holdings in companies that had lobbied their departments, agencies or offices. They don't want you to know stuff.  I wonder why?

At the same time, the Department of Defense has taken steps to remove from public distribution geo-spatial images and navigational information that have been in the public domain until now.  In fact, anything with even the most remote connection to "intelligence" is now more restricted than ever before -- even to those you might think are keeping watch.   Sen. John D. "Jay" Rockefeller IV (D-W. Va.), a member of the conference committee looking at reform of the US intelligence community, said the Senate's chief negotiators "had accepted a House demand stripping out all congressional oversight of the national intelligence director".

And where does this all end?  I recently wrote about the existence of secret laws, quoting Secrecy News that

"Americans can now be obligated to comply with legally-binding regulations that are unknown to them, and that indeed they are forbidden to know."

That sounds like the beginning of a very bad end.

November 20, 2004 in Bush Administration, Government Intrusion | Permalink

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