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It's an Old Story...

From Sunday's THE WASHINGTON POST feature, "Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency," reported by Barton Gellman and Jo Becker:

"Across the board, the vice president's office goes to unusual lengths to avoid transparency. Cheney declines to disclose the names or even the size of his staff, generally releases no public calendar and ordered the Secret Service to destroy his visitor logs. His general counsel has asserted that 'the vice presidency is a unique office that is neither a part of the executive branch nor a part of the legislative branch,' and is therefore exempt from rules governing either. Cheney is refusing to observe an executive order on the handling of national security secrets, and he proposed to abolish a federal office that insisted on auditing his compliance."

While the media may be covering this story all week through television and radio reports from many angles, we at THE JOURNAL thought we'd step back and remind you that this is an old story.

Check out this Bill Moyers essay from 2002 on The Freedom of Information Act:

From NOW with Bill Moyers, April 5, 2002:

In the interest of full disclosure you should know that the "Freedom of Information Act" was passed when Lyndon Johnson was President and I was his Press Secretary. He signed it on July 4, 1966; signed it with language that was almost lyrical; signed it, he said, "With a deep sense of pride that the United States is an open society in which the people's right to know is cherished and guarded."

Well, yes, but what few people knew at the time is that LBJ had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the signing ceremony. He hated the very idea of the Freedom of Information Act; hated the thought of journalists rummaging in government closets; hated them challenging the official view of reality. He dug in his heels and even threatened to pocket veto the bill after it reached the White House. Only the courage and political skill of a Congressman named John Moss got the bill passed at all, and that was after a twelve-year battle against his elders in Congress who blinked every time the sun shined in the dark corridors of power. They managed to cripple the bill Moss had drafted. And even then, only some last-minute calls to LBJ from a handful of newspaper editors overcame the President's reluctance; he signed "the damned thing," as he called it (only I'm paraphrasing, out of respect for PBS standards); he signed it, and then went out to claim credit for it.

It's always a fight, to find out what the government doesn't want us to know. It's a fight we're once again losing. Not only has George W. Bush eviscerated the Presidential Records Act and FOIA, he has clamped a lid on public access across the board. It's not just historians and journalists he wants locked out; it's Congress... and it's you, the public and your representatives.

We're told it's all about national security, but that's not so. Keeping us from finding out about the possibility of accidents at chemical plants is not about national security; it's about covering up an industry's indiscretions. Locking up the secrets of those meetings with energy executives is not about national security; it's about hiding the confidential memorandum sent to the White House by Exxon Mobil showing the influence of oil companies on the administration's policy on global warming. We only learned about that memo this week, by the way, thanks to the Freedom of Information Act. May it rest in peace.

--Bill Moyers

What are your opinions on the role of secrecy in government? Click here to read the varied viewer responses to this essay when it was originally posted 5 years ago. Have your opinions changed over the last 5 years?


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Apparently secrecy now extends beyond administration efforts to the major "free" email providers. We follow your program regularly and your program along with Moyers' are the two reasons we support our PBS station. It would seem, however, that major "free" email providers are screening out TRUTHOUT, as they detail: It is becoming increasingly apparent that the Free Email Services - all of them - are a morass. You are a commodity to these administrators and as far as they are concerned your rights are your problem, not theirs. If you are serious about receiving TO, or any other content they are not supportive of, you are pretty much on your own. Bluntly stated: AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo and all of the domains they control restrict what you receive in your inbox. And it is at their discretion, not yours. You can find out more about it at the web page:

By the way, for some reason PBS flagged my feedback email as spam.

As bad as 9/11 was, and there is no denying that, too few members of the media and the public paid any attention to what was being said by our estemed leaders before, during and after the event.

GWB was quite talkative on the air and in the print media just days prior tot he event of 9/11 - which is why I never believed him about anything after that.

He knew! He definitely was prepared for war. Any war, and as many wars as possible. If anyone thinks he will give up residence at the White House in January 2009, I know a bridge for sale cheap.

Governor Perry of Texas recently said in a speech before the California Republican Party convention, "I've heard Al Gore talk about man-made global warming so much that I'm starting to think that his mouth is the leading source of all that supposedly deadly carbon dioxide."

In that one statement Perry encapsulates the mean-spirited ignorance that has consumed the conservative base of the Republican Party. Mean-spirited because it is a snide personal attack with no value other than to diminish using grade-school put-downs appealing to our worst instincts. Ignorant because breathing does not yield a net increase in the global load of carbon dioxide. Plants and animals have been in equilibrium for emitting and absorbing CO2 for hundreds of millions of years.

Ignorant, too, because Perry says, “supposedly” deadly carbon dioxide, with the clear implication that climate change is not a real issue or potential threat. Well, he must then know more than 800 scientists from 166 countries who authored a recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), all of whom unanimously concluded that climate change is real, beyond natural variations seen over that past 4.5 billion years, and caused by human activity. That report was reviewed by more than 2500 scientists worldwide. The conclusions are unambiguous.

But apparently Perry and all of his conservative friends are now professional meteorologists with a greater understanding of climate cycles than the global community of climatologists. That is the only reasonable conclusion since these doubters have determined that those 800 scientists, and 2500 reviewers, are wrong.

But since there is no factual basis on which to doubt the IPCC report, rejecting its solid conclusions means we are also free to question other well-established scientific facts, such as the existence of atoms, DNA as the genetic code, laws of gravity, relativity, or the existence of bacteria and viruses as pathogenic agents.

We might as well go all the way and question whether the earth is truly a sphere rather than flat. At this stage in our understanding of climate change, questioning the role of “supposedly” detrimental carbon dioxide is no less silly than pondering the shape of the earth.

With his recent statement, Perry has embodied the scourge of scientific illiteracy in our society. And such illiteracy has real and tragic consequences. We don’t fund stem cell research, which could cure horrible diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, spinal cord injury, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and cancer. We introduce new laws that reduce protection for protected species; we lower standards for air and water pollution; we open our parklands to mining and logging; we block the FDA from approving new drugs like Plan B because their application might offend the religious right.

We do all of this because with faith-based reasoning, like that demonstrated by Perry, we are free to ignore facts that inconveniently undermine our preconceptions. We simply have to believe we are right; forget objective reality or the weight of solid evidence to the contrary. That warm embrace of ignorance, now so emblematic of the conservative religious right, is now the greatest threat to our national security.

Quite obviously neither Bush nor the VP has any friends among the rank and file partisans here. Why should the VP comply with any of your demands? You would only want more and more and never be satisfied. "We can't find any legal wrong doing, therefore dig deeper there must be some". The mob mentality of the witch hunt.

My wife and I have been able to look at our country from Europe's perspective these last weeks (in July) Bill Moyer's program on impeachment was a catalyst for us on returning home to work actively for the impeachment of the V.P.(first) and the President (second) We, and all the friends we still have around the world, must act to protect the Constitution.

I have little hope our members of Congress would have enough courage to jeoparize their substantial wealth and power by prceeding with impeachment hearings. It is hearbreaking to realize corruption is no longer a term reserved for foreign goverments. Who will save us ow?

For so long watching the news re our current government has had this surreal circus-like quality. Your show tonight was riveting...the first I've seen that really speaks to our obligation to respect and protect our constitution...I am sick to death of people claiming that impeachment proceedings will "distract congress from its business" though they are not distracted now! though they really understand what their "business" is! We must hold Bush, Cheney and Gonzales responsible, or we will loose both our democracy and our souls.

Impeachment is just part of the solution to the state of America's position in the world. We need to take our country back from corporations. All the "of the, by the, for the people" stuff needs to be a reality again. We have the capability of every person in America living a good life, with jobs, health care and much more. The greed of the few has taken away our county from the people. We will go the route of the Roman Empire in a short period of time if this doesn't change. PELOSI FOR PRESIDENT! By that I don't really mean that I want Nancy Pelosi to be President, but because Bush and Cheney should be impeached, and she would be the next in line. She certainly couldn't make anything worse. Thanks for the opportunity to vent. Great Show!

I watched the article about the perverbial Bush impeachment on Bill Moyer's Journal, and didn't know whether to laugh or cry when it was being compared to the attempted Clinton impeachment. This government scares me, and I don't know what to do about it, and I know I'm not the only one.

The discussion between Moyers, Nichols, and Fein revealed the criticality of the moment regarding the thin strip of belief that holds together any government, the public belief in that government's right to rule. What is often referred to as political legitimacy. Fein and Nichols highlight the role of Congress and the media in maintaining the legitimacy of our Government. Without more forceful intervention from the Congress, the media, and the American public, the Bush-Cheney attempt to resurrect an autocratic system of rule, heedless of law and the Constitution, will tear asunder our democratic legitimacy. There is no more time to lose.

While one must be a constituent of Ms. Pelosi's to e-mail her as a Representative, I was able to e-mail her in her position of leadership of the House.

Thanks so much for tonight's Journal. I've signed petitions, e-mailed everyone in sight, but tell me...what else can one do?

How does one express a demand for impeachment considering that representatives accept correspondence only from the constituents of their district? I have attempted to email Pelosi, only to have my message thrown back in my face!

Considering Gonzalez' "I don't recall's" I imagine Mr. Cheney is in possession of a mind virus that obliterates the human hard drive. May he catch it himself and lose the names of his grandchildren and the location of his retirement accounts. Hey, didn't that already happen... to Reagan?

The only way we're ever going to get elected officials who act like public servants is, of course, by getting corporate and other special interest money out of politics.

Public funding of elections should be instituted, without any provision for a candidate to opt out, and the myth of corporate personhood (with its attendant claim of "free speech") has to go.

Given human nature, there will always be some dirty secrets among the powerful, but at least they'd be strictly personal ones with little or no impact on the nation -- and cleaning up the system would help attract the sort of people who have nothing much to ashamed of.

Regarding those who would incite terror, Mr. Bush said that we should remain vigilant.

He is right. We should make sure that no one, not even the president nor the vice president, can hijack our government and operate above the law.

President Lincoln proclaimed that we are "dedicated to the great task...that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

It is incredibly frightening and alarming that this man has so much power...He is so entrenched in the Military Industrial Complex, as is the whole world now, it will take years of integral commitment PEOPLE to undue the damage of this man and this present adminsitration! Cheney is not a simple diplomatic crook like Nixon was, he is an evil, arrogant unconscious man. God help us all, because we as a people have certainly let it happen in some sence, as we let mainstream media saturate our live. Kathy Forough

I love it! Since the Vice President is, by his own claim, not part of the executive branch, he does not enjoy executive privllege. He therefore must answer all questions by congress...or be jailed for contempt until he does. This would not cure the problem which is the current administration, but certainly a step in the right direction!

As Dr. Phil is fond of saying, "those with nothing to hide hide nothing."

I've thought about this a great deal and I know people will think this position is naive, but I keep arriving at the conclusion that if the people can't know about it, the government shouldn't be doing it. Look at the lawless nonsense memorialized in the CIA's "Family Jewels." I don't want my government acting like thugs, let alone hiring thugs to do their dirty work. I want my government to make sense - to educate people rather than imprison them; to get fuel from switchgrass and hemp rather than Middle Eastern autocracies; to let people have legal access to the medicines they need and make sure sick people get medical care; to make sure every American has a roof over their head and food in the fridge. People will sneer that those ideas are "idealistic" but they aren't - they're completely possible and within our power right now.

At the very least, I expect my government to conform to the Constitution, the Geneva Conventions and international law. I want us to be a leader in the fight for universal human rights, but at this point, I'll settle for a government that simply abides by its own laws.

Where do we turn? We tried to elect a new congress, and were met with abject indifference and cowardice on the part of the Democratic majority. The next presidential election will be stolen as surely as the last two, and it should be obvious by now that it doesn't matter which party wins, because they're both venal and incompetent.

What do we do, Mr. Moyers?

There can never be such a thing as a single lie. One lie requires other lies to back it up and support it, and make it appear to be honest. The truth is always precious in that it fits into reality even if it seems incredible when it is first seen.
If the purpose of a government is to rule, then lies are necessary; if its purpose is to help its people, then it must seek, find, and publish the truth to the people it serves. John.

There are rare occasions when truth is so precious that she must be surrounded by a bodyguard of lies, but in the vast majority of cases, government should be open to public scrutiny. Too many of our elected officials have forgotten that they are public servants, not rulers.

There is only one reason for secrecy in government, that is to hide any wrong doing. A rightious government needs no secrets, and only speaks the truth.

Time for a change!


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