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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2005

    Bush Team Imposes Thick Veil of Secrecy

    They are sure trying to hide something.

    Bush Team Imposes Thick Veil of Secrecy

    By Mark Silva
    Washington Bureau

    April 30, 2006

    WASHINGTON -- As the Bush administration has dramatically accelerated the classification of information as "top secret" or "confidential," one office is refusing to report on its annual activity in classifying documents: the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.

    A standing executive order, strengthened by President Bush in 2003, requires all agencies and "any other entity within the executive branch" to provide an annual accounting of their classification of documents. More than 80 agencies have collectively reported to the National Archives that they made 15.6 million decisions in 2004 to classify information, nearly double the number in 2001, but Cheney continues to insist he is exempt.

    Explaining why the vice president has withheld even a tally of his office's secrecy when such offices as the National Security Council routinely report theirs, a spokeswoman said Cheney is "not under any duty" to provide it.

    That is only one way the Bush administration, from its opening weeks in 2001, has asserted control over information. By keeping secret so many directives and actions, the administration has precluded the public--and often members of Congress--from knowing about some of the most significant decisions and acts of the White House.

    In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the administration has based much of its need for confidentiality on the imperative of protecting national security at a time of war. Yet experts say Bush and his closest advisers demonstrated their proclivity for privacy well before 9/11:

    Starting in the early weeks of his administration with a move to protect the papers of former presidents, Bush has clamped down on the release of government documents. That includes tougher standards for what the public can obtain under the Freedom of Information Act and the creation of a broad new category of "sensitive but unclassified information."

    Not only has the administration reported a dramatic increase in the number of documents deemed "top secret," "secret" or "confidential," the president has authorized the reclassification of information that was public for years. An audit by a National Archives office recently found that the CIA acted in a "clearly inappropriate" way regarding about one-third of the documents it reclassified last year.

    - The White House has resisted efforts by Congress to gain information, starting with a White House energy task force headed by Cheney and continuing with the president's secret authorization of warrantless surveillance of people inside the United States suspected of communicating with terrorists abroad. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) recently threatened to withhold funding for the surveillance program unless the White House starts providing information.

    - The administration has withheld the identities of, and accusations against, detainees held in its war on terror, and it censored the findings of a joint House-Senate committee that investigated the events leading to Sept. 11, including a 27-page blackout of Saudi Arabia's alleged connections to the terrorists.

    - While maintaining a disciplined and virtually leakproof White House, senior members of the administration have been accused of leaking information to punish a critic of the war in Iraq. The grand jury testimony of a former White House aide reportedly asserts that Bush himself selectively authorized release of once-classified information to counter criticism.

    A tension has always existed between the presidency and the public, with concerns about security and confidentiality competing with the public's right to know about its government. But the balance seems to be tipping toward secrecy in a more pronounced way than at any time in the past three decades.

    "Our democratic principles require that the American people be informed of the activities of their government," Bush said in his executive order on classified information. "Nevertheless, throughout our history, the national defense has required certain information be maintained in confidence in order to protect our citizens."

    Bush and Cheney have made it clear they are intent on reclaiming presidential powers lost by Bush predecessors. That erosion of power started with Richard Nixon's losing fight over the privacy of his papers after the Watergate scandal and continued through Bill Clinton's impeachment.

    "This is a presidency in which, from the start, there were important forces to accentuate the executive prerogative, and all of that became more important after 9/11," said Fred Greenstein, professor emeritus of politics at Princeton University and author of "The Presidential Difference: Leadership Style from FDR to George W. Bush."

    White House spokeswoman Dana Perino maintains that the White House has "struck the right balance" between national security and openness.

    "We need to ensure that national security information is properly classified and protected," Perino said. "We endeavor to make as much information available to the public as possible. . . . We are accountable to the American people. The president doesn't want it any other way."

    But to some, the administration's penchant for secrecy has curtailed crucial public debate.

    "It determines the character of our political system," said Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists. "Is it a political process that is open to wide-ranging debate, or is it more like a closed circle of elite decision-makers? I think we've learned, often to our disappointment, that it's the latter."

    To others, the insistence that information considered important be kept confidential is part of the Bush White House's insistence on discipline and order.

    "I really think they think of it in t.erms of good governance," said James Carafano, senior fellow for national security and homeland security at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. "It's a very corporate style of leadership."

    Bush has a partner--some say mentor--in Cheney, who from the start resisted efforts to disclose the inner workings of a task force devising administration energy policy. He defeated an unprecedented lawsuit by the Government Accountability Office, Congress' investigative arm, to unveil that task force and carried his fight successfully to the Supreme Court.

    Last edited by sojustask; 05-02-2006 at 02:07 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2005

    Re: Bush Team Imposes Thick Veil of Secrecy

    Cheney asserts exemption.

    As the administration has sealed an increasing number of documents as secret or sensitive, and cut the number of documents being declassified each year, the refusal of Cheney's office to report on the number of its decisions stands out.

    A directive from the National Archives, acting under the authority of the executive order bolstered by Bush in March 2003, requires all agencies and executive branch units to report annually on their classification and declassification of files.

    Cheney's office maintains that its dual executive and legislative duties make it unique, as the vice president also serves as president of the Senate.

    "This matter has been carefully reviewed," said spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride. "It has been determined that the reporting requirement does not apply to the office of the vice president."

    To many, the administration's acts are part of a broader campaign to boost the powers of the presidency.

    "It's pretty clear that there were certain players in the administration, including the vice president, who felt that the executive branch had not fully exerted all of its constitutional authorities," said David Walker, the U.S. comptroller general.

    Walker, as head of the GAO, filed that office's only lawsuit against a government agency in April 2002 as it sought to open the records of Cheney's energy task force. A federal judge dismissed the suit as a struggle between the executive and legislative branches that courts were not empowered to adjudicate.

    The White House, in asserting a more powerful executive office, believed "that some of its authorities and privileges had eroded through the years and wanted to redraw that line," Walker said. "We just happened to be one of many situations that they chose to try to test."

    Organizations including the Sierra Club also carried the fight to the Supreme Court, which in 2004 voted 7-2 to uphold "a paramount necessity of protecting the executive branch from vexatious litigation" and returned the case to an appeals court, which last year ruled in favor of the White House.

    The administration started asserting its power over paper soon after Bush's inauguration by placing a hold on the release of the records of former presidents--beginning with the papers of Ronald Reagan's presidency--and later issuing an executive order granting past presidents a veto over releases.

    The Presidential Records Act of 1978, enacted in response to Watergate-era court battles over Nixon's papers, had placed a hold on release of "confidential communications . . . between the president and his advisers" for 12 years after the conclusion of a presidency.

    The order Bush issued in 2001 enabled former presidents, or their representatives if the president has died, to screen any request for records and withhold ones considered "privileged." It gave the same authority to vice presidents.

    Before the end of its first year, the administration also reversed a long-standing policy on how agencies respond to public requests for records under the Freedom of Information Act.

    `Presumption of disclosure'

    Clinton's attorney general, Janet Reno, had insisted on "a presumption of disclosure." But Bush's first attorney general, John Ashcroft, arguing that "no leader can operate effectively without confidential advice and counsel," implored all agencies to disclose information requested by the public "only after full and deliberate consideration . . . of the privacy interests that could be implicated."

    The administration's policy, stated by Ashcroft in an Oct. 12, 2001, memo, had been in the drafting for months.

    But after the Sept. 11 attacks, and amid growing concern about information that terrorists might obtain from the government, then-Bush Chief of Staff Andrew Card issued an order in March 2002 demanding that any "Sensitive but Unclassified Information" related to homeland security be released only after careful consideration "on a case-by-case basis."

    That has led to a proliferation of documents stamped "Sensitive but Unclassified" or simply "For Office Use Only," according to experts who track government record-keeping.

    The Bush administration is "objectively more secretive" than its recent predecessors, Aftergood said.

    "Anyone who calls or writes a government agency for information encounters barriers that were just not there a decade ago," he said. "The government is undergoing a mutation in which we are gradually shifting into another kind of government in which executive authority is supreme and significantly unchecked."


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005

    Re: Bush Team Imposes Thick Veil of Secrecy

    The "New Totalitarianism" now defines a desperate neo-con end game
    by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
    May 1, 2006

    As the Bush/neo-con kleptocracy disintegrates in a toxic cloud of military defeat, economic bankruptcy, environmental disaster and escalating mega-scandal, its attack on basic American freedoms---its "New Totalitarianism"---has escalated to a desperate new level, including brutal Soviet-style prosecutions against non-violent dissidents and an all-out offensive for state secrecy, including an attack on the internet.

    In obvious panic and disarray, the GOP right has turned to a time-honored strategy---kill the messengers. While it slaughters Americans and Iraqis to "bring democracy" to the Middle East, it has made democracy itself public enemy Number One here at home.

    The New Totalitarianism has become tangible in particular through a string of terrifying prosecutions against non-violent dissenters, an attack on open access to official government papers, and the attempted resurrection by right-wing "theorists" of America's most repressive legislation, dating back to the 1950s, 1917 and even 1797.

    Bush's universal spy campaign is the cutting edge of the assault. The GOP Attorney-General has told Congress both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln engaged in electronic wiretapping. He has deemed the Geneva war crimes accords a "quaint" document and treats the Bill of Rights the same way.

    Evidence of no-warrant spying on thousands of US citizens continues to surface. Like all totalitarian regimes, this one believes its best defense is to terrorize its citizenry by intruding, Big Brother-like, into all facets of personal life. Inevitably, it is moving prosecute whoever reveals that spying is going on, including a KGB-style search for the hero who leaked Bush's warrantless wire-tap program.

    Along with spying comes official secrecy. The Bush regime is reclassifying millions of pages of harmless, marginal documents to prevent public scrutiny. It demands access to the papers of the deceased investigative reporter Jack Anderson so they can be reclassified. It has moved to prosecute reporters, government officials and even lobbyists who have used documents in ways the administration doesn't like.

    In Ohio, the official secrecy has entered the state level. Governor Bob Taft, the first sitting criminal governor in Ohio history, is moving to classify thousands of pages of state policy papers. Taft recently admitted to four misdemeanor crimes involved with Tom Noe, a Republican hack now under both state and federal indictment.

    Noe can't explain the whereabouts of some $15 million in state funds he supposedly invested. Taft says any documents that allow him to make policy are "privileged." As critics point out, if an aide hands him even a copy of a published newspaper, it becomes covered under "executive privilege" in the first time in Ohio history, and its "mis-use" can be a crime.

    Should the trend expand, US citizens could find themselves shut out of access to even the most rudimentary official information at all levels, down to the smallest town.

    Simultaneously, prosecutions against dissenters have dramatically escalated. Taft walked away from his convictions with a small fine and an apology. But a community organizer here has been sentenced to 119 days in jail for speaking out at a Columbus School Board meeting. A severe diabetic, Jerry Doyle has been temporarily turned away from his jail sentence due to life-threatening health problems. But authorities intend to imprison Doyle while Taft walks free.

    Ironically, Doyle was initially charged with trespassing at the podium although he had an authorized speaker's slip. He was complaining about a school official, Sheri Bird-Long who stole some $200,000 from the school system, pleaded guilty to one felony count of having an unlawful interest in a public contract and one misdemeanor count of unauthorized use of property, a theft-related offense. Unlike Doyle, Bird-Long got no jail time upon conviction.

    In Cleveland Heights, Carol Fisher has been charged with a major felony for putting posters on public lamp-posts. The posters are critical of the Bush attack on Iraq. Fisher, who is committed to non-violence, was assaulted by local police who ordered her to take down the posters, then threw her down on the ground and charged her with felonious assault.

    "I am 53 years old," she says, "not exactly a spring chicken. A hand comes down to push my chin against the concrete. By this time there are four cops on the scene. My hands are tightly cuffed behind my back. They lift me up and shove me onto a park bench and shackle my legs. I am still calling out, telling people what this is about."

    Fisher says the police cursed her, shouting "Shut up or I will kill you!...I am sick of this anti-Bush ****!...You are definitely going to the psyche ward." Fisher now faces years in prison and the loss of her livelihood.

    Such gratuitous, mean-spirited and overtly repressive prosecutions against non-violent dissenters have proliferated throughout the Bush era, in which ordinary citizens with moderate bumper stickers or t-shirts have been turned away from or arrested at public events.

    The clear and present purpose is to spread a climate of totalitarian fear aimed at reversing the sacred American freedoms embodied in the first ten amendments to the Constitution.

    The campaign runs in tandem with the attack on academic discourse coordinated by David Horowitz and other haters of open debate. In the guise of seeking "balance," the rightist campaign aims to purge liberals from the liberal arts.

    It parallels the industry-centered attempts to clamp down on the internet, which has been the sole grassroots source of reliable information and dissenting opinion in the US for years.

    With total corporate domination of the major media, only the internet and a few talk radio shows and liberal magazines have kept alive the American tradition of a free press. Predictably, the administration is using a corporate front to shut off this last source of open "diablog."

    Bush has taken the same tack against science itself. As Joe Stalin exiled and killed researchers whose fact-based conclusions seemed to contradict the Party line, so the GOP attacks the overwhelming consensus among climatologists that global warming is real. With true Orwellian flare, the administration disappears official research (and researchers) whose data say the oil barons who define Team Bush must curb their emissions.

    The repression has reached new theoretical levels. In recent weeks, right-wing journals such as the National Review have featured articles demanding enforcement of ancient legislation outlawing "sedition." With the US now "at war," the right-wingers say it is perfectly fine for Bush to arrest and imprison those who advocate peace. In particular they cite repressive legislation used in the 1950s to clamp down on "known Communists." They also cite acts passed in 1917, during World War I, and the Sedition Act, passed under John Adams in 1797.

    These laws in essence gave the Chief Executive power to imprison American citizens at will. Woodrow Wilson used them to jail Eugene V. Debs and thousands more who resisted US intervention in Europe. Debs was sentenced to ten years in federal prison for urging resistance to a war opposed by a significant majority of the American people (Debs ran for president from his Atlanta prison cell in 1920 and got nearly a million votes). Some dissenters were arrested for carrying posters that quoted Wilson's own writings in favor of peace. Opponents of the military draft were routinely jailed without trial. A "Red Scare" was used as cover to smash the Socialist Party and radical labor movement, debilitating the American left for decades to come.

    John Adams's Sedition Act had similar aims. Its reign was brief and less destructive. But according to the New Totalitarians, it remains in force, and should be used to crush opponents of Bush's Iraq attack.

    The neo-cons have taken particular aim at generals and other officers who have criticized the Bush military strategy, if it can be called that. The critiques have merely underscored the astonishing incompetence of the Bush junta. They reflect the highest order of courage and patriotism.

    But such honor and honesty comprise the New Totalitarianism's worst nightmare. With indictments flowing deep into the kleptocracy, the most anti-democratic of all American regimes has just two tactics. The first is to create a culture of fear while silencing the dissenters, by all means necessary.

    The second is to rig voting machines and strip voter rolls to guarantee that no matter how deep dissent actually carries in this country, it will have no tangible impact on who holds the reins of power. In tandem comes the deliberate shrinking of the electorate through repressive ID requirements and digitized voter registration lists. Thus far up to ten percent of the entire Ohio electorate---some 500,000 voters---have been stripped from the state's registration rolls, all from Democratic strongholds.

    Today Bush's popularity has sunk to about a third of the population, a level similar to Hitler's percent of the vote when the Nazis took power in 1933. The GOP neo-cons have clearly realized that they can only hold power with old-fashioned thuggery and high-tech Tammany.

    Having lost the public debate on its suicidal military, economic, environmental and social policies, all-out repression and stolen elections are the two remaining pillars of the New Totalitarianism.

    Harvey Wasserman and Bob Fitrakis are co-authors of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, available at www.freepress.org.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2006

    Re: Bush Team Imposes Thick Veil of Secrecy

    Quote Originally Posted by sojustask
    They are sure trying to hide something.
    Lady, thats the point of making information classified! Hahahah. Not so you can share it with everyone!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2005

    Re: Bush Team Imposes Thick Veil of Secrecy

    Quote Originally Posted by USNavySubSailor
    Lady, thats the point of making information classified! Hahahah. Not so you can share it with everyone!
    Funny, they didn't mind sharing it before. Suddenly after years and years, it becomes classified.

    And of course you don't find that odd.

    Lady Mod

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