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You Never Know What’s Secret in the Bush Administration

Intelligence officials spent months figuring out the number of contractors working for intelligence agencies, including the FBI, CIA, National Security Agency and others, according to The New York Times.

Apparently, there’s some concern about how reliant the intelligence agencies have become on private contractors. The Times article noted that the intelligence agencies have increased their use of contractors during the Bush administration’s tenure.

But the question remains: How many contractors do work for intelligence agencies?

We don’t know. The government won’t tell us, because the number of contractors is classified.

Apparently, knowing the number of contractors - not government employees, mind you - will somehow give the bad guys a leg up.

“It reveals how confused the government is about what is really sensitive and what is not,” said Steven Aftergood of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists. “What would Osama bin Laden do with the fraction of intelligence workers who are contractors? Absolutely nothing.”

Posted 04-26-2007 12:17 PM EDT

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The Mystery of the Missing White House E-mails

To enable White House officials to conduct political business without getting into trouble for doing it with government equipment, the Republican National Committee (RNC) gave the officials RNC e-mail accounts several years ago. Those receiving the accounts included top White House advisor Karl Rove, according to news reports. (Check out this Reuters report and this column in The Washington Post.)

Trouble is, Rove apparently conducted some government business with his RNC account - a great way to keep that government business hidden.

Now, some of those official e-mails may erroneously have been deleted, the White House says. And some of Rove’s e-mails may have been related to the controversial firing of U.S. prosecutors.

Cover up? Or just an honest mistake? Stay tuned. We’ll almost certainly hear more about this one.

 

Posted 04-16-2007 3:59 PM EDT

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House Stands Up to Secretive Administration

Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives are joining together to oppose the Bush administration’s secretive ways, according to a New York Times editorial published March 16.

Last week, the House “overwhelmingly” approved legislation that requires federal agencies to be more responsive to Freedom of Information requests, according to The Associated Press.

The House also passed legislation that reverses a Bush decision to make it easier for presidents to keep their records from the public.

“The bipartisan support that’s emerging is no doubt driven by the administration’s unalloyed dedication to secret machinations - whether in the Iraq fiasco or the bare-knuckled purging of federal prosecutors,” the Times said in its editorial.

The Times called for the Senate to swiftly take up companion legislation.

Posted 03-19-2007 1:16 PM EDT

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Don’t talk about the polar bears unless they tell you to …

A New York Times story published March 8 says that internal documents from the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Alaskan division tell government-employed biologists and other federal employees who travel in countries around the Arctic to keep quiet about climate change, polar bears or sea ice - unless they are designated to speak about these topics.

“This sure sounds like a Soviet-style director to me,” said Deborah Williams, an environmental campaigner in Alaska who worked for the Interior Department under Clinton.

Posted 03-08-2007 11:24 AM EDT

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Public Citizen Urges Congress to Curb Executive Branch Secrecy

The Bush administration's executive order to restrict access to presidential records violates the letter and spirit of the law and should be overridden by Congress, according to testimony March 1 by Public Citizen before a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee. For more information, click here.

Posted 03-01-2007 4:35 PM EDT

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Even in Federal Lawsuits, Justice Department Insists on Withholding Information

Is a Justice Department lawyer allowed to withhold information about a security clearance from a federal judge because the lawyer says it’s “classified”? Can Justice delete files from the computers of lawyers representing people suing the federal government? Can Justice maintain control over “secret” federal court filings?

Are these bizarre questions? Yes. But the Justice Department is indeed doing or is trying to do all these things to control the federal court system, according to a Jan. 26 New York Times article and editorial.

See, Justice is defending the National Security Agency’s domestic wiretapping program, and it is acting in a paranoid, secrecy-obsessed manner - even requiring judges to use Justice-issued computers to compose court decisions.

“Sometime during all of this, I went on Amazon and ordered a copy of Kafka’s ‘The Trial,’ because I needed a refresher course in bizarre legal procedures,” said Jon B. Eisenberg, a lawyer in an Oregon case challenging the wiretapping program.

Bizarre indeed.

 

Posted 01-30-2007 2:09 PM EDT

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Administration Ends Warrantless Surveillance Program; Won’t Give Details on New Eavesdropping Program

Is it good news?  According to the Jan. 18 Washington Post, the Bush administration has agreed to end the warrantless surveillance program that has been run by the National Security Agency.

The surveillance program will be replaced by a program overseen by the secret court that administers the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

In an unsurprising move, “administration officials have declined to provide details of how the new version of the program will operate,” according to the Post.

But Attorney General Alberto Gonzales went up to Capitol Hill Jan. 18 to talk about the administration’s changes. And he got into it with some leading lawmakers.

Sens. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the chairman and the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, respectively, demanded that the administration release the Jan. 10 court order allowing the new surveillance program. Both senators wanted more details to make sure the new program protected citizens’ privacy (see The New York Times article).

But, the Post reported, Gonzales suggested that the administration would refuse such demands.

And the quest for openness continues …

 

 

 

Posted 01-19-2007 5:57 PM EDT

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Surprise! Administration DECLASSIFIES Documents

At midnight on Dec. 31, hundreds of millions of pages of secret government documents - including FBI cold war files on who it suspected to be Communist sympathizers - will instantly be declassified, according to a Dec. 21 story in The New York Times.

Yes, the administration is actually declassifying documents!

According to the Times, secret documents 25 years old or older will lose their classified status, unless agencies have sought exemptions on the grounds that the material is still secret. (But it could take months before the declassified papers are ready for researchers, because of considerations such as a growing backlog of records at the National Archives.)

“It [the information] represents the classified history of a momentous period, the cold war,” said Steven Aftergood, who runs a project on government secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists. “Almost every current headline has an echo in the declassified past, whether it’s coping with nuclear weapons, understanding the Middle East or dictatorship and democracy in Latin America.”

And every year from now on, millions of additional documents will automatically be declassified as they reach 25.

Posted 12-21-2006 5:02 PM EDT

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Administration Overreaches, Tries to Keep Harmless Memo Secret

Even more evidence has surfaced to show that the Bush administration is trying to hide from the public information that has absolutely no impact on national security, according to a Dec. 19 story and editorial in The Washington Post.

This time, the administration was trying to hush the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which had a “classified” document that turned out to be an Army memo outlining rules about photographing prisoners of war and detainees in Iraq. Federal prosecutors demanded that the ACLU hand over all copies of the document.

Luckily, the administration realized it was overreaching in trying to force the ACLU and dropped its demand on Dec. 18, according to the Post story.

But the document should never have been classified in the first place.

“It’s commonly accepted that overclassification is rampant, but even so it’s hard to make sense of this one,” according to the Post’s editorial.

 

 

Posted 12-20-2006 10:56 AM EDT

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Administration: Shut Public Out of Hearings Examining Mercury-Based Vaccine Link to Autism

On June 11, 2007, a trial examining whether the mercury-based vaccine preservative thimerosal contributed to autism in the vaccine recipients will commence. The claimants in the case want compensation from a special vaccine injury fund administered by the federal government.

Surprise, surprise - the Bush administration wants to keep the trial a secret. The  administration wants to hold the hearings in a sealed courtroom, off-limits to the public and press, according to a new post by David Kirby (“The Other Secret Bush Court?,” The Huffington Post, Nov. 15, 2006).

Just another way the administration is trying to hide critical information from the public.

Posted 11-27-2006 5:55 PM EDT

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