Bush administration fetish for government secrecy
It has been broadly noted by political observers, journalists and rights advocates that the Bush administration has increased the secrecy of government operations, as part of the "War on Terror" and in other areas.
Observations of increases in secrecy
Many political observers, journalists and rights advocates have noted the Bush administration's penchant for secrecy and the irony of this tendency, given its push (via the USA PATRIOT Act and other initiatives) to widen the government's ability to spy on its citizens and others around the world:
- A Buffalo News editorial on January 6, 2004 said that:
"Concealing information has become an option of first resort... More than any presidency in memory, Bush's has what can only be called a fetish for government secrecy. Whatever justifications there may be for this predilection - and there are some - Bush's love of secrecy does much more harm than good, in the end, to the fabric of a democracy. Long after he is gone from office, this change in public policy will be a black mark on his administration.
"The threat of terrorism is real enough that protection of certain sensitive information is undoubtedly wise, but the truth is that the administration signaled its devotion to secrecy the afternoon Bush was inaugurated. That was when it froze more than 300 pending Bill Clinton administration regulations, then went about undoing them without seeking any public comment. The reason: public comment would be 'contrary to the public interest.'
"Among the abuses U.S. News points out is the denial of information to a former U.S. Army Ranger who wanted information about a planned high-volume natural gas pipeline through the center of his community. To help organize citizens, he sought information about the project from the federal government, which denied the request. Although it was previously public, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission claimed that disclosing the route could make the line a target for terrorists. But as the former Ranger pointed out, once construction began, the route of the line would be common knowledge anyway. That makes the denial of public information seem more like an effort to shield the project from public scrutiny.
"As the late New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan observed many times, secrecy... may serve the electoral needs of politicians, who can more easily shield themselves from criticism, but it undermines the Constitution and the country those politicians have sworn to protect."
- In the December 23, 2003, edition of the Washington Post, Dana Milbank pointed out that under the Bush administration, secrecy was "expanding."
"Last Monday, the Supreme Court announced it would consider an effort by Vice President Dick Cheney to keep private the records of the energy policy task force he ran. On Friday, the White House announced that it has known for two weeks about an attack on a convoy carrying Iraq administrator L. Paul Bremer -- but had decided not to divulge the information. Later that day, President Bush announced a disarmament deal with Libya reached during nine months of secret negotiations. Also last week, it emerged that the government was acting to keep more Pentagon information out of the public domain and that it has removed from the U.S. Agency for International Development web site remarks by an administration official that had badly understated the cost of Iraqi reconstruction.
In the meantime, however, the chairman of the federal September 11, 2001, commission, in remarks released last week, criticized needless government secrecy... The administration has been unusually successful keeping its policy deliberations out of public view, and millions of government documents - including many historical records previously available - have been removed from the public domain. Steven Aftergood, who directs the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy, says it is nothing less than a 'mutation in American politics' away from open government. 'There is an unwholesome change in the deliberative process unfolding before our eyes,' he said. 'These are not technicalities. These are fundamental issues of American government that are now up for grabs.' "
- A November 2004 report authored by Congressman Henry A. Waxman accused the Bush administration of a "systematic effort - to limit the application of the laws that promote open government and accountability," adding it has "sought to curtail public access to information while expanding the powers of government to operate in secret." 
- Writing about the more trivial manifestations of the Bush administration's secrecy in April 2004, The Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank wrote that the White House has refused to confirm meetings with foreign dignitaries, domestic trips, overseas diplomatic appointments and T-ball games announced by others. The reluctance of the administration to comment on the substance of a phone call between Bush and Russian President Putin already discussed in the Russian press led Milbank to observe: "It may come as a surprise to some that the Kremlin, symbol of secrecy and repression, has become more transparent than the White House, symbol of freedom and democracy. But such experience has become routine -- so routine, in fact, that Agence France-Presse White House correspondent Olivier Knox has proposed a slogan for the Bush team: 'When we have something to announce, another country will announce it'." 
- Also in April 2004, a new coalition called Open the Government  formed to combat secrecy at all levels of government. Under the banner "Americans for Less Secrecy, More Democracy," journalists, librarians, labor activists, environmentalists, government watchdog groups and others announced the formation of the coalition by releasing a list of their "ten most wanted" documents. 
- In September 2004, The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press released the annual report "Homefront Confidential — How the War on Terrorism Affects Access to Information and the Public's Right to Know," which provided a lengthy list of actions the administration of President George W. Bush has taken to restrict information from reaching the public. 
Articles and resources
- 9-11 Commission
- 9-11 Truth Movement
- civil liberties
- conspiracy theory
- domestic spying
- enemy combatant
- Freedom of Information Act
- George W. Bush's domestic spying
- The one-party state
- Patriot Act I
- Patriot Act II
- Proactive Preemptive Operations Group
- Shadow Government
- Total Information Awareness
- Treating dissent as treason
- Unofficial Official Secrets Act
- USA Patriot Act Section 314(a)
- Valerie Plame
- weapons of mass destruction
- weapons of mass destruction investigation
- web scrubbing
- ↑ "Governmental Secrecy," Buffalo News, January 4, 2004.
- ↑ Dana Milbank, "From the White House, With Silence," Washington Post, April 20, 2004. See also "The Sounds of Silence," PRWatch.org, April 20, 2004.
- Open the Government homepage for the coalition for "Less Secrecy, More Democracy"
- bushsecrecy.org web site by Public Citizen.
- Security & Privacy: Secrecy, Center for Democracy & Technology.
- Secrecy in Government: "Democracy Dies Behind Closed Doors", Center for Progressive Regulation (2003).
External articles and commentary
- Patrick Martin, "Bush's war at home: government censorship, secrecy, and lies," wsws.org, October 13, 2001.
- Deb Riechmann, "Critics Blast Bush Order on Papers," AP, November 2, 2001.
- John W. Dean, "Hiding Past and Present Presidencies: The Problems With Bush's Executive Order Burying Presidential Records," Findlaw's Writ, November 9, 2001.
- "Self-serving secrecy," USA Today Op-Ed, November 11, 2001.
- Bradley Peniston, "Operation Public Lockout," Washington Post, December 21, 2001.
- Ellen Nakashima, "Bush View of Secrecy Is Stirring Frustration. Disclosure Battle Unites Right and Left," Washington Post, March 3, 2002.
- Chris Plumblee, "Shadow government secrecy appropriate," ogb online/Wake Forest University, March 7, 2002.
- "Challenging administration's secrecy," National Catholic Reporter Op-Ed, March 15, 2002.
- Adam Clymer, "Bush to Alter Clinton Order on Secret Documents," New York Times, March 22, 2002.
- "Bill Moyers on Government Secrecy," PBS, June 29, 2002.
- Press Release: "Bush Endorses National ID and New Government Secrecy Measures; ACLU Slams Parts of President's Homeland Security Plan as Shortsighted," American Civil Liberties Union, July 16, 2002.
- "USA: Government Secrecy and Corporate Crime. Did Enron Unduly Influence Energy Policy? Cheney, 'We're Not Telling'," CorpWatch, August 22, 2002.
- Jeffrey Benner, "Closing the Books. Open government after 9/11," Reason Online, October 2002.
- Robert Kahn, "Dan Ellsberg's new book illuminates danger of government secrecy," The Californian/North County Times, October 27, 2002.
- Jeff Nesmith, "Bush push: Withhold more info. White House guidelines would keep certain records from public," Cox News Service, November 1, 2002.
- Adam Clymer, "Bush Expands Government Secrecy. Government Openness at Issue as Bush Holds Onto Records," New York Times, January 3, 2003.
- "Emerging Coalition Against Government Secrecy," OMB Watch, January 27, 2003.
- Pat M. Holt, "Someone, blow the whistle on Bush's excessive secrecy," Christian Science Monitor, February 6, 2003.
- "Bush Issues New Secrecy Executive Order," archivists.org, March 25, 2003.
- Dale McFeatters, "Dubya hides more secrets," Scripps Howard News Service, March 27, 2003.
- Jim Hightower, "Bush's Fetish for Secrecy," The Seattle Press, April 22, 2003.
- Alan Elsner, "Bush Expands Government Secrecy, Arouses Critics," Reuters, September 3, 2003: "Its policies are beginning to stir growing criticism from the courts, Congress and even from some conservatives. ... 'For whatever reason, this administration has gone way way too far in its pursuit of secrecy in some particularly worrying ways,' said Mark Tapscott, head of the Center for Media and Public Policy at the conservative Heritage Foundation. ... Administration officials, from the president down, have justified their policy on the needs of fighting terrorism. ... 'We can't have leaks of classified information. It's not in our nation's interest,' Bush said last October. ... But the policy goes beyond classified information."
- "President Bush Renews Environmental Exemption for Area 51," Project On Government Oversight, September 17, 2003: "Ensuring the secrecy of activities at Groom Lake, also known as Area 51, President Bush renewed the secret facility's annual exemption for environmental reporting. 'The truth be told, everything concerning Area 51 has been classified by the Air Force, which is ludicrous. This blatant overuse of government secrecy exposes the public to abuses of government power,' stated Scott Amey, a senior investigator."
- Christopher H. Schmitt and Edward T. Pound, "Keeping Secrets. The Bush administration is doing the public's business out of the public eye. Here's how--and why," US News, December 22, 2003.
- John D. Podesta, "On Open Government," Center for American Progress, April 15, 2004: "President Bush has led the most secretive administration in modern memory, blocking open debate over issues of critical importance to all Americans. Now more than ever, we need an engaged and alert public, ready to confront the challenges before us. Instead, the Bush administration has sought to avoid accountability by keeping the public in the dark."
- Jonathan S. Landay, "Bush administration eliminating 19-year-old international terrorism report," Knight-Ridder, April 15, 2004: "Instead of dealing with the facts and dealing with them in an intelligent fashion, they try to hide their facts from the American public," charged Larry C. Johnson, a former CIA analyst and State Department terrorism expert who first disclosed the decision to eliminate the report in The Counterterrorism Blog, an online journal."
- Dana Milbank, "From the White House, with Silence," The Washington Post, April 20, 2004.
- Jeff Barnard, "Conservation group wins battle for Forest Service records," Associated Press, October 17, 2007.