A History of Refusing to Release Documents

In 2000, presidential candidate George W. Bush demanded Vice President Al Gore release various documents related to his past. He said on March 15, 2000, "I challenge you to clear the air on some serious charges. I hope you will encourage the White House and the Department of Justice to release all records and photographs relating to the investigation of fundraising." But now, facing far more serious allegations than fundraising irregularities, the President has categorically refused to release critical documents in a host of areas.

BUSH REFUSES TO CALL ON TEXAS TO RELEASE MILITARY RECORDS: Though the Bush administration now says the Pentagon "inadvertently" destroyed key documents about the President's military service at the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the President has refused to call on the state of Texas to release copies of those military files that are legally-required to exist there. According to AP, "Under Texas law, a copy of military personnel files of those serving in the Texas Air National Guard must be retained on microfilm at the Texas archives." The Texas Air National Guard has told AP that the files in the Texas state archive are under control of the federal government. But according to the NY Times, the chief of the Pentagon's Freedom of Information Office refused to comment about obtaining the documents. [Sources: NY Times, 7/9/04; AP, 6/22/04]

ADMINISTRATION REFUSES TO RELEASE TORTURE MEMOS: "Attorney General John Ashcroft said that President George W. Bush never authorized torture of detained terrorism suspects, but he refused to release internal memos that discuss when torture is allowed. In a testy three-hour Capitol Hill hearing, Ashcroft repeatedly rejected Democratic demands for memos recently leaked to the media which say that treaties and laws do not bar Bush from authorizing torture of terrorism suspects." [Source: Newsday, 6/9/04]

ADMINISTRATION REFUSED TO RELEASE INFORMATION ABOUT MEDICARE BILL: During the negotiations over the Bush administration's controversial Medicare Bill, the administration threatened to fire a government actuary if he released cost estimates of the bill to Democrats. Even today those estimates "still have yet to be made public or turned over to congressional Democrats who have requested them." In March, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson "promised to release them and said an inspector general's investigation would clear the air. But since then, "he has refused to release the documents in question. House Democrats have sued for the documents in federal court and The Associated Press, which sought the same materials under the Freedom of Information Act, has appealed the withholding of 149 pages out of 162 pages that the agency acknowledges are responsive to its request." [Source: AP, 7/7/04]

CHENEY REFUSES TO RELEASE ENERGY TASK FORCE RECORDS: "Vice President Dick Cheney refused to release records of meetings with company executives to discuss energy policy." According to the Washington Post, Cheney met in early 2001 with executives from the oil and gas industries, including Anadarko Petroleum's Robert Allison and then-Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay. Cheney has acknowledged meeting multiple times with Enron representatives during the California energy crisis while the administration was developing its energy proposal. [Sources: Financial Times, 1/27/02; MSNBC, 4/26/04; ABC News, 1/9/02]

BUSH REFUSES TO RELEASE RECORDS OF HARKEN TENURE: "The White House refused to release records of Bush's service on Harken's board. Bush had pointed to those records during a news conference on Monday when asked about his role in the sale of a subsidiary. The transaction later was used by Harken to mask losses." [Source: Washington Post, 7/11/02]

ADMINISTRATION REFUSES TO RELEASE CORRECTED CENSUS DATA: In 2001, "The Census Bureau refused to release statistically adjusted census data to disburse billions in federal dollars." The decision was an effort to prevent the release of data showing the "raw figures undercount minorities, the poor and children." According to the House Government Reform Committee, "When the Commerce Department used similar techniques as part of the 1990 census, federal courts ordered the data released and rejected claims that information was in any way confidential."[Sources: National Journal, 10/18/01; AP, 10/17/01; House Government Reform Committee, 5/21/00]

WHITE HOUSE REFUSES TO RELEASE BUDGET INFORMATION TO CONGRESS: "The Bush White House, irritated by pesky questions from congressional Democrats about how the administration is using taxpayer money, has developed an efficient solution: It will not entertain any more questions from opposition lawmakers. The decision — one that Democrats and scholars said is highly unusual — was announced in an e-mail sent Wednesday to the staff of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. House committee Democrats had just asked for information about how much the White House spent making and installing the "Mission Accomplished" banner for President Bush's May 1 speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln." [Source: Washington Post, 11/7/03]

ADMINISTRATION REFUSES TO RELEASE FOIA'D DOCUMENTS: "The Justice Department refused to release records from its Office of Legislative Affairs because reporter Michael Ravnitzky had 'failed to address how [his publication] intends to use the records subject to the request,' according to the Justice Department. For a 2001 story, Ravnitzky asked for a series of Security Summary Synopses concerning airports. In the aftermath of 9/11, he urged the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to expedite the request in order to inform the public which airports were not secure. The FAA has responded twice, arguing that 'there is no identifiable urgency to inform the public.'" [Insight Magazine, 4/8/02]

WHITE HOUSE REFUSED TO RELEASE ABORTION REPORT FROM ITS OWN OFFICIALS: According to Knight Ridder in 2002, an independent team that the administration sent to China in May concluded that allegations that a U.N. family planning program supports forced abortions were untrue. In fact, one of the officials said, the report concluded that the U.N. program improved women's lives by helping them prevent unwanted pregnancies through education and birth control and, therefore, reducing the number of abortions under China's restrictive family planning policy. The team's report recommended that Bush release $34 million to the U.N. Population Fund. But the administration "refused to release the report, even to congressional Republicans working on the issue." [Source: Knight-Ridder, 7/14/02]

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