FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, October 11, 2000
Contacts: Lisa Finkel (Wyden)
Katie Callahan (Moynihan)
Washington, DC - To highlight the far-reaching implications of secrecy in international and domestic policy making, U.S. Senators Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today released a joint-report on government secrecy. The report, Secrecy in International and Domestic Policy Making: The Case for More Sunshine, examines the sweeping impact government secrecy has on a wide array of issues important to the American people.
MOYNIHAN & WYDEN RELEASESenators Unveil Proposals to Increase Openness in International and Domestic Institutions
REPORT ON GOVERNMENT SECRECY
"The World Trade Organization came into being only recently, on January 1, 1995. With its 138 members -- and soon, we hope, two more with the admission of China and Taiwan -- the WTO has in five short years become a vitally important institution. While some of its operations are open, many that could be are not. I welcome the Administration's announcement yesterday that they have presented another proposal to the WTO's General Council to open meetings and dispute settlement proceedings and to 'derestrict' many documents. To be sure, more needs to be done, but we have set ourselves on the right course," Moynihan said.
"Residents from Pendleton, Oregon to Poughkeepsie, New York can turn on their local public access television and watch some obscure governmental subcommittee on acoustics and ventilation, but they can't watch the Food and Agriculture Organization or the World Trade Organization hammering out new regulations on water quality and food labeling. There is no good reason why people should not have access to information about important decisions that affect their daily lives," Wyden said. "Senator Moynihan and I would like to raise the veil of secrecy from government proceedings and ensure that these crucial decisions are conducted out in the open."
The Moynihan-Wyden report shows that on vital matters from trade to determining interest rates to the environment, organizations as diverse as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Federal Reserve Board regularly conduct important business behind closed doors. At the Senators' request, the non-partisan Congressional Research Service found that in 1998, of the 1,524 closed meetings cited in the Federal Register under the Sunshine in Government Act, more than one in 10 were closed without any specific statutory authority.
To help pull back the veil of secrecy and shed some light on these critical decisions, Moynihan and Wyden made the following policy recommendations:
Moynihan, the Senate's leading scholar on secrecy issues, is the author of Secrecy: The American Experience, an expansion of the report by the Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy. Moynihan, as Chairman of the Commission, led the first comprehensive review in forty years of the Federal Government's system of classifying and declassifying information and granting security clearances.
- Congress should review the 28-year-old Sunshine in Government Act which currently includes 10 exemptions allowing government officials to meet behind closed doors.
- At the upcoming WTO Ministerial Conference, International Monetary Fund and World Bank Board of Governors meetings, U.S. representatives should propose changes in the rules of procedure require significant, affirmative votes to close meetings.
- By using existing international satellite broadcast systems and the Internet, INTELSAT and the International Telecommunications Union should establish the equivalent of a global C-SPAN to broadcast important proceedings of international agencies. Current Internet technology would enable audio recordings of such proceedings to be immediately available online.
- The American people should be given timely access to actual transcripts -- not redacted summaries -- of the Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee (FOMC) meetings. Currently, the FOMC only provides summaries of meetings months after they have taken place.
For a full copy of Secrecy in International and Domestic Policy Making: The Case for More Sunshine, please contact Lisa Finkel at 202/224-5244 or Katie Callahan at 202/224-2668.