White House embarked on path of secrecy after Sept. 11, report says

Freedom of Information | Feature | March 15, 2002

    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Freedom of Information         Mar 15, 2002    

White House embarked on path of secrecy after Sept. 11, report says

  • Reporters Committee found that government withheld information on immigrant detainees, stifled combat coverage in Afghanistan and encouraged officials to deny access to public records.

The Bush administration launched a series of measures after Sept. 11 that effectively stifled the public's and press' access to information and, thus, their right to know, according to a report released by a press advocacy group today.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press presented Homefront Confidential , a 34-page report exploring how the war on terrorism affected the public's right to know, at the National Freedom of Information Day Conference at the Freedom Forum in Arlington, Va. Government secrecy following September 11 spurred the group to write the report, which found that the Bush administration restricted information from reaching the public in a variety of ways.

Homefront Confidential covers several different areas where access to information is being denied, including:

directive from Attorney General John Ashcroft that changes the interpretation of the federal Freedom of Information Act to allow agencies to deny access to public records more often;

secret imprisonment of more than 1,100 non-American citizens on immigration charges or detainment as material witnesses;

disregard of a 1992 media-military agreement that provided for pooled and then open coverage during times of combat;

proposed creation of military tribunals to secretly prosecute people accused of terrorism.

The report chronicles federal government actions taken since Sept. 11 that jeopardizes the public's right to know, as well as a compilation of actions taken by state legislatures and officials responding to the terrorism threat.

"The atmosphere of terror induced public officials to abandon this country's culture of openness and opt for secrecy as a way of ensuring safety and security," Lucy Dalglish, the group's executive director, wrote in the forward. "No one has demonstrated, however, that an ignorant society is a safe society."

-- KG

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© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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