President Bush has led the most secretive administration in modern memory, blocking open debate over issues of critical importance to all Americans. Now more than ever, we need an engaged and alert public, ready to confront the challenges before us. Instead, the Bush administration has sought to avoid accountability by keeping the public in the dark.
The Center for American Progress is part of a new coalition, OpenTheGovernment.org, which today released a report identifying the "Ten Most Wanted Documents" that are being withheld from the public= Topping this list is the administration's refusal to declassify 28 pages from Congress' report on pre-9/11 intelligence failures. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, estimated that "95 percent of that information could be declassified" without harming national security. Nonetheless, the administration has continued to stonewall, reportedly because the report contains information embarrassing to Saudi Arabia, which the administration has sought to protect.
Also making the most-wanted list are documents on PATRIOT Act implementation, treatment of post-9/11 detainees, and no-bid contracts for companies like Halliburton. (For the full list, see www.OpenTheGovernment.org.)
This penchant for secrecy undermines America's founding principles. Without reasonable access to government information, the public is unable to evaluate whether the administration is behaving responsibly and in the public interest. Excessive secrecy undercuts confidence in the workings of our government. It's time to let the sunshine in.
John D. Podesta is the president and chief executive officer of the Center for American Progress. He served as chief of staff to President Bill Clinton.