Who Hijacked Our Country

Friday, January 28, 2005

Freedom of Information Act

The Freedom of Information Act has been a thorn in the side of every U.S. president since Lyndon Johnson. Most presidents (not including the current one) have sort of grudgingly gone along with it. Bush – via former Attorney General John Ashcroft – has done more than anyone to try and derail it. Ashcroft had a standing offer to “help” any government official who tried to withhold data that was being requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

Ashcroft stymied scholars and business researchers as well as journalists with his insatiable desire to hoard information. When he announced his resignation, you could practically hear the collective sigh of relief among reporters and editors of all political persuasions.

Now they’re finding out that his successor, Alberto “Electrodes” Gonzales, might be even more gung ho about hoarding and guarding information.

The director of the Project on Government Secrecy of the Federation of American Scientists has said “There’s a lot we don’t know about his actions as White House counsel and his advice to the president. What we do know is rather discouraging.”

According to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, when he was White House counsel Gonzales showed “a penchant for strictly regulating access to government and executive branch information.” They also said Gonzales pursued a policy of “quasi-executive privilege ... so named because the privilege’s breadth, as defined by the Bush administration, is much greater than what is commonly known by lawyers as the executive privilege.”

This quasi-executive privilege policy was used by Gonzales to delay the release of information on the Abu Ghraib torture scandal. And since Gonzales helped formulate the policies that led to the Abu Ghraib fiasco – the circle is complete.

Enforcement of the Freedom of Information Act is part of the Attorney General’s job. It’s too bad Bush keeps hiring one fox after another to guard the henhouse.


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