SECRECY NEWS
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2003, Issue No. 31
April 10, 2003

VP CHENEY ON OPENNESS AND SECRECY

Vice President Dick Cheney yesterday said it was "unfair" to characterize the Bush Administration as opposed to openness. To the contrary, he said, the Administration is "commit[ted] to the free flow of information."

The Vice President spoke at a meeting of the American Society of Newspaper Editors and was responding to a question from Cleveland Plain Dealer editor Douglas C. Clifton, who noted that "There's a growing perception among librarians, academicians, researchers, historians, reporters, editors, publishers, broadcasters that the Bush administration is a foe of openness in government."

Cheney defended the conduct of his Energy Task Force and his refusal to disclose the identities of those he consulted with. "I think it restored some of the legitimate authority of the Executive Branch, the President and the Vice President, to be able to conduct their business."

"In other areas, if we talk about openness, I can't think of anything that better demonstrates our commitment to the free flow of information about very important events than this whole exercise we're in the middle of right now, with respect to embedding the press corps with U.S. military forces," the Vice President said.

See an excerpt from the Vice President's remarks here:

Yet clashes over Bush Administration secrecy continue to erupt on a nearly daily basis.

Two news stories today detail separate disputes between the executive branch and Republican committee chairmen whose congressional committees have been denied access to information.

House Commerce Committee Chairman W.J. "Billy" Tauzin (R-LA) warned the Securities and Exchange Commission that he will subpoena certain SEC documents that have been withheld for nine months if they are not promptly delivered. See "House Panel Tells SEC It Will Subpoena Papers" by Kathleen Day, Washington Post, April 10:

Danielle Brian of the Project on Government Oversight describes the efforts of House National Security Subcommittee Chairman Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) to overcome Energy Department resistance to release of documents that his subcommittee requires concerning security at nuclear weapons facilities. See "Stonewalling Security" by Danielle Brian, TomPaine.com, here:


WHAT'S NEW IN THE NEW EXECUTIVE ORDER

An edited version of the new Bush Executive Order 13292 on classified national security information that highlights the additions to, and deletions from, the prior executive order 12958 is available here, courtesy of the Information Security Oversight Office:


CURTAILING SECRET COURT SETTLEMENTS

Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) introduced the Sunshine in Litigation Act to curtail judicial secrecy agreements that permit product manufacturers to settle lawsuits in ways that conceal dangerous defects in the products.

"All too often, courts sign off on secret settlements that shield important public health and safety information from the public view," Sen. Kohl said.

In support of his bill, Kohl invoked a January 2001 statement by no less than Attorney General John Ashcroft:

"I think unnecessarily hiding or otherwise concealing from the public those [public health and safety hazards] would be against the interests of the people... I think there's great danger in not providing public information," Mr. Ashcroft said at his confirmation hearing.

See Sen. Kohl's April 9 introductory statement here:


CHINA VIEWS HUMAN RIGHTS IN US

"The United States has been... censuring other countries for their human rights situations, but it has turned a blind eye to serious violations of human rights on its own soil." To remedy that defect, the Chinese government has issued its own report on human rights in the United States.

Problem areas identified include high crime rates, infringements on constitutional rights, the dominant role of money in American politics, poverty, hunger, homelessness, and racial discrimination.

The new Chinese government report was explicitly intended as a reply to the U.S. State Department's annual report on human rights in China, released on March 31, which found "numerous and serious abuses" of human rights in the PRC, including "extrajudicial killings, torture and mistreatment of prisoners, forced confessions, arbitrary arrest and detention, lengthy incommunicado detention, and denial of due process."

China's April 3 report on "The US Human Rights Record in 2002" (with a link to the State Department human rights report) may be found here:

Coincidentally, the State Department this week invited non-governmental organizations and others to describe their ideas for "projects that will foster democracy, human rights, freedom of information, judicial independence, criminal and civil rule of law, and civil society in the People's Republic of China."

See this remarkable April 7 Federal Register notice from the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor:

China has not indicated whether it would now sponsor a parallel program to support freedom of information and other pro-democracy initiatives in the United States.

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Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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