One of the principles the AT team holds near and dear is open government. We believe that local, state and federal officials work for the American people. Whenever possible, officials should be open and accountable to the general public and not hide their actions behind a veil of secrecy.
We were reminded of this principle yesterday by a Richard Reeves column published in the Tulsa World. Reeves examined the Bush Administration's attitude toward open government and found it lacking.
Government secrecy, Reeves argues, "will be the most damaging legacy of these Bush years." Bush, like former President Richard Nixon, wants to govern in secret. Moreover, Reeves writes, Bush "refuses to accept that either Congress or the courts is an equal branch of government and wants almost all its actions classified under 'executive privilege.'"
The Bush policies are so convoluted that even officials at the National Highway Safety Administration "are no longer allowed to provide information to reporters except on a background basis," which means they can't be named or quoted, shutting off an important source of official safety information.
How does this serve the public?
Reeves also points out that the administration is "reclassifying formerly public information," effectively dismantling the Freedom of Information Act that has allowed citizens access to government records since the Johnson Administration.
Kudos to columnist Richard Reeves for highlighting these anti-democratic policies and to the Tulsa World for publishing Reeves' column.
A final Reeves quote: "What we don't know or find out too late will hurt us." Amen, Brother!