Aug 17, 2008
The Archie Bunker of the federal government, the Environmental Protection Agency, not happy with closing its libraries and cutting off vital research materials for its own scientists1—never mind the pesky public who pay their salaries— has now ordered its employees to stifle themselves and not to speak to the press, Congress, or its own inspector general.
Public Employees for Environmental Research (PEER) is a watchdog organization made up of public employees who don’t care for the sort of tactics used by agencies such as the EPA, which are putatively responsible for protecting our environment and doing so in an open and accountable manner. PEER’s recent news release, “EPA Staff Ordered to Stonewall Investigators and the Media,” relates how the EPA’s latest fiat implies a readiness to fire any employee who speaks even to their own internal investigative body or the Congressional Government Accountability Office. The move is typical of an administration which has stonewalled with impunity public and congressional attempts at factfinding, even going so far as to ignore Congressional subpoenas. The Office of the Vice President is a famously closed book to press and public alike.
Speaking of a book, you could fill one with the information resources—databases, libraries, expert testimony, public knowledge that suddenly becomes classified—that this administration has stifled. And someone should. The Federation of American Scientists has provided a good start, with a long list of Bush documents and press briefings regarding secrecy.2 And way back at the end of 2002, OMBWatch.org provided an excellent summary of the ways and means by which the Bush administration was taking us from a “right to know” to a “need to know” society.3
We’ve come a long way since 2002, to a day when public resources can be shut down at will by some faceless bureaucrat, and public employees excluded by interoffice memo from first amendment protection.
1“Critics say EPA closed libraries too soon,” by Wade-Hahn Chan, at FCW.com (Federal Computer Week web site) (Accessed August 8, 2008)
2“Bush Administration Documents on Secrecy Policy” (Accessed August 8, 2008)
3The Bush Administration’s Secrecy Policy: A Call to Action to Protect America’s Values from OMBWatch (Accessed August 8, 2008)
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