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Open & Shut

From the Spring 2003 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 40.

From the Spring 2003 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 40.

“I believe, if I understand Mr. Olson correctly, that I do agree with him. I think unnecessarily hiding or otherwise concealing from the public those kinds of things would be against the interests of the people. I think I would have to consider each case on its individual merits, but I think there’s great danger in not providing public information.”

— John Ashcroft responding to questioning by Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) during Ashcroft’s confirmation hearing on his nomination to Attorney General of the United States, January 16-19, 2001.

“No president since I’ve been a reporter has so tried to change the very structure of government to foster secrecy.”

– Jack Nelson, former Los Angeles Times Washington bureau chief and a founder of The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, during his keynote speech at the National FOI Day conference March 14 at the Freedom Forum in Arlington, Va.

“But I think there’s not anything you can do — with our Constitution, which is a good one that allows for free speech and free press — about it, except to, you know, penalize the papers and the television and the newspapers that don’t give good advice, and reward those people that do give good advice. That’s about all we can do, and that’s probably enough.”

– Donald Rumsfeld during an April 17 Pentagon Town Hall meeting addressing a question from a Nav-Air employee: “My question is, despite having embedded journalists and all the positive and some negative things that they brought to coverage of the war, what more can be done to turn around the media’s overwhelming negative coverage of the war?”

Q: Some people might find it ironic that in a briefing where you’re talking about things that Iraq is allegedly doing that are violations of the Geneva Convention, that it’s done by a briefer who is to remain unnamed. Can you give us a sense of why it’s important for us not to name you; why this briefing needs to be off the record?

Staff: On background.

Q: On background?

Sr. Defense Official: I’ll hand that over to –

Staff: We, as you know, have done a series of briefings for you and are going to continue to do a series of briefings for you. And these are really technical briefings. And at the technical briefing level, we’ve decided that we would do these on background as a means of helping you understand some of what you might see in the future and to refresh you, particularly in this case, to some of the things that Saddam Hussein has done in the past, too. So, that’s — as we do this series of technical briefings over time, we are doing them on a background basis.

– Feb. 26 Defense Department Briefing on Human Shields in Iraq. The Sr. Defense Official was not named in the transcript.

“I like to think that whatever guidance is out there is very secret, but I have a bad feeling that things are really quiet because the guidance isn’t there at all.”

— Financial consultant Karen Petrou in Feb. 27 Wall Street Journal article on Homeland Security guidance to financial institutions.

“There’s a difference between privacy and liberty, and sometimes during wartime you have to compromise your privacy to preserve your liberty.”

– Jan Ting Ting, a professor at the Beasley School of Law at Temple University and a former assistant commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service of the U.S. Department of Justice, during a forum April 12 on the USA PATRIOT Act at the New Hope-Solebury High School campus, according to a report by The Doylestown, (Pa.) Patriot.

“The administration has been keeping the taxpayers in the dark with respect to how this money is being used, and that information ought to be shared.”

– Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) in an April interview with the New York Times talking about access to information about contracts to rebuild Iraq.

“In not responding, we were letting you know that we were waiting for more information.”

— Amanda Crumley, director of communications for Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, explaining to The Des Moines Register’s Clark Kauffman why he had not received any response to the seven open records requests he sent her. He reported that she argued that her office had “bent over backwards” to respond to the Register’s requests. Kauffman learned that the state erased archived e-mail records on the hiring of the state’s new economic development director after he requested them. Crumley later said her response had been “glib.”