“A Shroud of Secrecy”




According to U.S. News and World Report, "the Bush administration has quietly but efficiently dropped a shroud of secrecy across many critical operations of the federal government – cloaking its own affairs from scrutiny and removing from the public domain important information on health, safety, and environmental matters." Here are some of the most egregious examples:

BUDGET: "Last month, the nation’s governors came to Washington complaining about inadequate federal funding for the states. But states are about to find it much harder to make this complaint — because the Bush administration has decided to stop publishing the budget report that states use to see what money they are, or aren’t, getting from Washington. The White House’s Office of Management and Budget is discontinuing the annual report called "Budget Information for States" — the primary federal document reporting how much states get under each federal program. In fiscal 2003, the report ran 422 pages. In 2002, it was 415 pages." – Washington Post, 3/11/03

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." – Washington Post, 11/7/03

GLOBAL WARMING: “The Environmental Protection Agency scrapped a detailed assessment of climate change from an upcoming report on the state of the environment after the White House directed major changes and deletions to emphasize the uncertainties surrounding global warming. The changes prompted an EPA staff memorandum that said the revisions demanded by the White House were so extensive that they would embarrass the agency because the section ‘no longer accurately represents scientific consensus on climate change.’" "The administration took out a phrase that said, ”Climate change has global consequences for human health and the environment.” … The White House wrote, ”The complexity of the Earth system and the interconnections among its components make it a scientific challenge to document change, diagnose its causes, and develop useful projections of how natural variability and human actions may affect the global environment in the future. Because of these complexities and the potentially profound consequences of climate change and variability, climate change has become a capstone scientific and societal issue for this generation and the next, and perhaps even beyond.” -AP, 6/20/03, Boston Globe, 6/20/03

9/11: "At the White House’s direction, the Environmental Protection Agency gave New Yorkers misleading assurances that there was no health risk from the debris-laden air after the World Trade Center collapse, according to an internal inquiry…The White House ‘convinced EPA to add reassuring statements and delete cautionary ones’ by having the National Security Council control EPA communications in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, according to a report issued late Thursday by EPA Inspector General Nikki Tinsley." "In fact, at the urging of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the EPA added reassuring language and deleted words of caution the agency’s scientists had included in a draft version. Christie Todd Whitman, who resigned in May as EPA administrator, confirmed the changes in an interview with Newsweek." -AP 8/23/03, Chicago Tribune 9/11/03

HEALTH: "The National Cancer Institute, which used to say on its Web site that the best studies showed ‘no association between abortion and breast cancer,’ now says the evidence is inconclusive. A Web page of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention used to say that studies showed that education about condom use did not lead to earlier or increased sexual activity. That statement, which contradicts the view of ‘abstinence only’ advocates, is omitted from a revised version of the page." –New York Times, 12/27/02

POLLUTION: "In February 2002, USDA officials told top scientists in the Department’s Agricultural Research Service to seek prior approval on all manuscripts pertaining to ‘sensitive issues.’ According to a Department memo, these issues included global climate change, contamination of water by hazardous materials (pesticides/pathogens), and animal feeding operations or crop production practices that negatively impact soil, water, or air quality." – House Government Reform Committee

PRESIDENTIAL RECORDS: "President Bush showed little respect for history, and even less for the illuminating work done by presidential historians, when he issued an executive order last November making it significantly harder to gain access to a former president’s official papers… Mr. Bush’s decree essentially repealed the presumption of public access at the heart of a proud post-Watergate reform — the Presidential Records Act of 1978. This bipartisan act established that a president’s White House records are not his personal property but rather belong to the American people…In stark contrast, the Bush order grants both the sitting president and the former president whose records are being sought the right to indefinitely postpone public release just by withholding their permission." – New York Times, 05/25/02

ENERGY: "Vice President Cheney has balked at turning over documents relating to the controversial energy policy task force that he headed for the Bush administration. A lawsuit claims he had made improper contacts with the energy industry when developing government policy. Cheney is appealing a federal court’s order that he release internal files of the task force. The White House has argued the courts and Congress have no business making inquiries, even limited ones, into the decision-making power of federal agencies and offices. Cheney has said executive power needs to be increased in such confidentiality cases." – 12/15/03

CIVIL LIBERTIES: "The Society of Professional Journalists, the nation’s largest association of working journalists representing nearly 10,000 print, broadcast and online reporters and editors, urges you to revisit your office’s access policies as you tour the nation in support of even greater powers under the U.S. Patriot Act. As it stands, the policy limits media and public access to your speeches and pre-selects attendees, allowing your office to frame the debate in the most favorable terms. In recent days, print reporters have been denied access to your Q&A sessions following speaking engagements. According to media reports and statements by your public information officers, the following ground rules have been enforced at your recent appearances in support of the Patriot Act: while print reporters are allowed access to the formal event, one-on-one opportunities are offered only to local broadcast outlets; protesters are kept outside the event; and public access is conditioned on agreement with your position on the Act." – Letter to Attorney General Ashcroft from the Society of Professional Journalists, 9/18/03

ECONOMY: "The Bush administration, under fire for its handling of the economy, has quietly killed off a Labor Department program that tracked mass layoffs by U.S. companies. The statistic, which had been issued monthly and was closely watched by hard-hit Silicon Valley, served as a pulse reading of corporate America’s financial health. There’s still plenty of economic data available charting employment trends nationwide. But the mass-layoffs stat comprised an easy-to-understand overview of which industries are in the greatest distress and which workers are bearing the brunt of the turmoil." – San Francisco Chronicle, 1/3/03

CASUALTIES: “In the eve of the Iraq invasion, the Department of Defense ordered a clear directive: "There will be no arrival ceremonies for, or media coverage of, deceased military personnel returning to or departing from Ramstein (Germany) airbase or Dover (Del.) base, to include interim stops." This order effectively censored images of flag-draped coffins from appearing in the war coverage. The tactic was a blatant attempt to help the Bush administration influence public opinion, or pass the "Dover test," as the Pentagon has coined it.” – University Wire, 10/29/03

NUCLEAR WEAPONS: "Throughout January, intelligence analysts have seen extensive activity at the Yongbyon nuclear complex, with some trucks pulling up to the building housing the storage pond…The Bush administration has said nothing publicly about the truck activity, deflecting questions about the subject…’There’s still a debate about exactly what we are seeing and how provocative it is,’ said one senior official. ‘The North Koreans made no real effort to hide this from us’…The satellite photographs of the truck activity have been tightly held by the administration, and not yet shared widely with allies"…The administration’s lack of public expressions of alarm contrasts sharply with its approach to Iraq, which the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, noted today was years behind North Korea in nuclear ability." – New York Times, 01/31/03

DEPT. OF JUSTICE: "An internal report that harshly criticized the Justice Department’s diversity efforts was edited so heavily when it was posted on the department’s Web site two weeks ago that half of its 186 pages, including the summary, were blacked out. The deleted passages, electronically recovered by a self-described ‘information archaeologist’ in Tucson, portrayed the department’s record on diversity as seriously flawed, specifically in the hiring, promotion and retention of minority lawyers… After the unedited document began circulating in computer circles, and articles began appearing earlier this month in publications like Computer World and newspapers like Newsday, the Justice Department pulled the edited report from its Web site, later posting a different version thought to be more resistant to electronic manipulation." -New York Times, 10/31/03

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