The Next President Could Reverse Bush-Era Secrecy

By February 7, 2008

The next President of the United States could single-handedly do what years of advocacy, investigation, legislation and litigation have yet to fully accomplish, namely to uncover the concealed record of the Bush Administration’s two terms in office on everything from warrantless wiretapping to extraordinary rendition.

In an essay published in the Nieman Watchdog today, I argue that the next Administration might find it advantageous and would clearly have the authority to overcome the Bush-era secrecy that has impeded government accountability and confounded public debate on a whole host of issues.

“By now no one expects the Bush Administration to make itself accountable for its controversial and possibly illegal practices in domestic surveillance, prisoner detention and interrogation, or for its numerous other departures from the norms of American government. But the next President will have a unique opportunity to reveal what has been kept hidden for the last seven years, and to let Americans know exactly what has been done in their name.”

“Although internal White House records that document the activities of the outgoing President and his personal advisers will be exempt from disclosure for a dozen years or so, every Bush Administration decision that was actually translated into policy will have left a documentary trail in one or more of the agencies, and all such records could be disclosed at the discretion of the next President.”

If so, it would make sense to question the presidential candidates now about their willingness to engage in such housecleaning by asking them, for example:

“Will you disclose the full scope of Bush Administration domestic surveillance activities affecting American citizens, including all surveillance actions that were undertaken outside of the framework of law, as well as the legal opinions that were generated to justify them?”

See “The next president should open up the Bush Administration’s record” by Steven Aftergood, Nieman Watchdog, February 7.

The Nieman Watchdog, a project of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, aims to invigorate press coverage by framing probing questions on matters of public policy importance.

Categories: Secrecy