Thursday, February 07, 2008

Fighting Justice for Transparency

"Cherish, therefore, the spirit of our people, and keep alive their attention..... If once they become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress and Assemblies, Judges and Governors, shall all become wolves.

"It seems to be the law of our general nature in spite of individual exceptions, and experience declares, that man is the only animal which devours his own kind....." Thomas Jefferson, January 16, 1787

Jefferson understood that an informed electorate was essential to protect our liberties and keep in check the tendency toward abuses by those entrusted with our national destiny.

During the last seven years, the Bush administration has been placing ever more stumbling blocks along the path to government transparency.

In the first year of the Bush administration, VP Dark Cheney held a closed-door confab to formulate energy policy with various oil and energy poobahs. He has refused repeatedly to name the attendees or the agenda of the meeting.... and it's been down hill from there for a shut-out electorate.

The wolves in the Bush White House den hold close their secrets.... every citizen knows less and less about what their government is up to, left to sort through their lies and distortions.

Admissions that we were misled into the invasion of Iraq, that the CIA destroyed evidence and lied about torture to conceal their illegalities are but a sample of some of their actions that the Bush administration wants to keep from public view. Is it any wonder?

That is why a vigorously implemented Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is so vital. And, why we need to listen to the alarm bell rung in "Is Ombudsman Already in Jeopardy? Bush Proposes Moving Post From Archives to Justice Department." (WaPo)

Even as The Decider reluctantly signed a law enforcing better compliance with FOIA, he's working to undermine this vital safeguard. In his budget request this week, "Bush proposed shifting a newly created ombudsman's position from the National Archives and Records Administration to the Department of Justice," a move "akin to killing the critical function..."

To support the alarm over such a move, consider that after 9/11, "then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft issued a memo urging agencies to use all legal means to refuse public document requests." So, is it surprising that a "recent review of overdue FOIA requests by the National Security Archive criticizes Justice for holding up public records releases."

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has been working diligently to see that the White House doesn't succeed in frustrating the efforts of, or in removing altogether, the nonpartisan National Archives and Records Administration as the vital open-portal to public documents.

But, the wolves are at the door. Only an electorate armed with the demand to know, and constantly vigilant, will keep them from devouring us all.

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