Bush Hits the Delete Button

Public information the administration doesn’t want you to see

| Mar.-Apr. 2008

During George W. Bush’s first and second terms, his administration has slowed the release of essential government information to a trickle, in most cases to avoid unflattering public scrutiny. This has gone largely unnoticed by the general public. After all, with a war going on and a different celebrity getting thrown in the clink every other week, what’s a suppressed report here, some redacted testimony there, a wee bit of executive privilege over there, there, and there?

Dick Cheney’s aversion to the sunlight has made headlines so often that his latest information crackdown is more likely to be fodder for David Letterman than it is to spark outrage. Still, if the average citizen saw a grocery list of all the instances of government suppression over the past seven years, it’s a good guess it would lead to an outcry. Something like: Hey, what the hell happened to the public’s right to know?

Enter TPMmuckraker.com . Since 2006 the news­hounds at the investigative website have been keeping a running tally of the diminishing access to government information. Reporter Steve Benen got the list started over at his own blog, the Carpetbagger Report. Then his fellow Muckrakers joined in by trawling the news and—as is the website’s custom—tapping the collective wisdom of their readers to cobble together a dossier on an administration that has, as deputy editor Paul Kiel writes, “discontinued annual reports, classified normally public data, de-funded studies, quieted underlings, and generally done whatever was necessary to keep bad information under wraps.”

Here, Utne Reader presents an excerpted (but not redacted) version of the list Kiel continues to compile.



National Security

•  If the intelligence community disagrees with the administration’s take on Iraq, Iran, or al-Qaida, don’t expect to hear about it. In October 2007 national intelligence director Mike McConnell reversed the practice of declassifying and releasing summaries of national intelligence estimates.