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White House Has Final Say on 9/11 Report

The White House will review the 9/11 commission's report "line by line" before it is released to the public, 9/11 commission leaders said on NBC's "Meet the Press." While this sort of review is standard procedure, it raises concerns about White House censorship and the possibility that the Bush administration will delay the report's release until after the November presidential election, the USA Today said. Bush adviser Karen Hughes told "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert that she thinks the White House will allow the panel to release the report before the election.

Perhaps if the White House hadn't opposed the commission's creation, stonewalled it repeatedly and refused, until last week, to allow the national security adviser to testify in public and under oath, Hughes' assurance would be more comforting.

Posted 04-06-2004 11:51 AM EDT

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Bush Secrecy 'Worse Than Watergate'

Thirty years ago, as counsel to President Nixon, John Dean played a pivotal role in exposing the Watergate scandal. Now, Dean has written an alarming new book that concludes that the Bush administration's obsession with secrecy and deception is worse than Watergate. Recently, Dean spoke to Bill Moyers of PBS (full transcript of "Now with Bill Moyers") about the "hidden agenda of a White House shrouded in secrecy and a presidency that seeks to remain unaccountable" and his book "Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush."

Dean said the Bush administration has tried to block, frustrate or control any probe into the Sept. 11 attacks using "well-proven tactics not unlike those used by the Nixon White House during Watergate."

Posted 04-06-2004 11:43 AM EDT

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Waste of Energy

An editorial in The Washington Post took the Bush administration to task for its "struggle to keep secret the workings of Vice President Cheney's energy task force." The Post also called on the White House to abide by a federal judge's recent order and release more information about the task force's work. It's likely that the Bush administration will appeal U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman's ruling, "but it ought to think hard about simply releasing the information and letting the matter rest," the Post said.

Posted 04-05-2004 5:55 PM EDT

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Judge Orders Release of Energy Task Force Data

U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman ordered federal agencies to release documents pertaining to their work on Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force, The Washington Post reported. The Bush administration has claimed that its employees' work for the task force, which held secret meetings with energy company representatives and crafted national energy policy, is protected by confidentiality privileges. Friedman rejected the White House's argument and ordered the documents be made public by June 1.

case in which Cheney also is trying to keep task force information from being disclosed is pending before the Supreme Court.

Posted 04-02-2004 5:12 PM EDT

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House GOP Halts Medicare Secrecy Inquiry

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives stopped an inquiry into whether the Bush administration illegally withheld information about the real cost estimate of last year's Medicare prescription drug bill, the Los Angeles Times reported. Ways and Means Committee Republicans quashed Democrats' attempts to subpoena Thomas Scully and White House aide Doug Badger, key figures in the controversy. Scully, President Bush's former Medicare Administrator, is accused of threatening to fire his top actuary if he provided lawmakers with his analysis showing the cost of the Medicare law would be far more than administration officials had led the public and members of Congress to believe.

"There was a cover-up of this information and we want to know how high the cover-up went," Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) told the Times.

Posted 04-02-2004 4:50 PM EDT

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Secrecy Is White House's Obsession

Allowing Condoleezza Rice to testify publicly under oath before the 9/11 commission should have been an easy call for President Bush. Instead, his latest reversal came as a result of intense public and political pressure, and it underscores this administration's "obsession with secrecy" and illustrates the White House's "disregard for the public's right to know," a Los Angeles Times editorial said. Also, the Times asserts that since 9/11 the Bush administration has strained "credulity and democracy by insisting ... that citizens have no right to learn whether their tires on their cars could explode or what this administration did with information it had on terror threats."

Posted 04-02-2004 10:33 AM EDT

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White House Declassifies to Serve Political Needs

The Bush administration's penchant for secrecy is maddening, but worse still is the inconsistent decision-making regarding the declassification of documents. "What we're learning is that classification is a political tool," Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy told The Washington Post. "It can be used to advance or retard a particular agenda. The CIA, for example, is reviewing for declassification last year's testimony of former White House counterterrorism official Richard Clark after he told the panel investigating 9/11 last week that the Bush administration ignored the terrorism threat prior to the 2001 attacks.

Posted 04-02-2004 9:58 AM EDT

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Rice to Testify Publicly Before 9/11 Panel

In the face of mounting pressure, the White House has reversed course and will allow national security adviser Condoleezza Rice to testify before the independent commission investigating the 9/11 attacks, CNN reported. Rice said she resisted calls to testify in public as a matter of principle. In public testimony, former counterterrorism official Richard Clarke has charged that the Bush administration didn't do enough to prevent the 9/11 terrorist attacks. President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney also will meet privately with the commission.

The White House had argued that allowing a presidential adviser, such as Rice, to testify before a congressionally created body would set new precedent and violate the executive privilege doctrine.

Posted 03-30-2004 12:02 PM EDT

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Nuke Agency Withholds Unclassified Information

Critics argue that U.S. nuclear power plants and weapons facilities should be able to fend off an attack from as many as 19 assailants in four squads. After 9/11, the Bush administration updated a much weaker 1980s-era security standard, but the attack scenario still involves considerably fewer attackers. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is keeping the new standard secret. What's frustrating watchdog groups now is that the agency is also withholding information about a nuclear power company's unclassified request for a waiver of security requirements, The Washington Post reported.

It's just the latest example of how the Bush administration's penchant for secrecy -- of even unclassified information -- is squelching public debate about security matters. The Bush administration's cloak and dagger policymaking has made it nearly impossible to hold government officials accountable for their decisions.

Posted 03-29-2004 1:40 PM EDT

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Former Official Admits Giving Order to Withhold Medicare Data

Thomas Scully, former administrator of the Medicare program, confirmed to The New York Times that he ordered the program's chief actuary, Richard Foster, to withhold information from Congress about how much the new Medicare law would cost; however, Scully said he did not threaten to fire Foster if he did not follow the directive. Last week, Foster gave lawmakers documents showing that federal payments to private health insurance plans under the new Medicare law could cost more than triple what Congress assumed when it passed the bill last year. Lawmakers had requested the cost estimate several months before the bill passed, but Foster said Scully threatened to fire him if he handed over the data.

White House spokesman Thomas Duffy said no one instructed either Scully or Foster to keep information from Congress. But Duffy admitted that White House officials were aware of Foster's cost estimates while the bill was being debated. Lawmakers, including Republicans, have been critical of the Bush administration for keeping the information secret.

Posted 03-23-2004 6:09 PM EDT

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