deadlines amuse me

exploring how the world works and why it works that way …

Sunshine? What sunshine?

with 4 comments

Remember that scene in “Sneakers”? Redford and company playing Scrabble and arranging the tiles to read: No more secrets

Everyone has secrets. Every organization has secrets. Every Big Govmint and Corpokleptocracy has secrets. And every secret has a professed reason for being kept from those who want — or need — to know.

“I don’t want my parents to know.”

“It’s for your own good.”

“It’s proprietary information.”

“We don’t want the terrorists to have it.”

“Sorry. National security.”

At any societal level, people have reasons for keeping secrets. Not all of those reasons are justifiable, and disagreement over those reasons keeps lawyers running to the bank and journalists stewing over how to get secrets that they believe their readers need to know.

But many, if not most, secrets are kept simply to avoid embarrassment. Every proffered reason for keeping information secret most likely conceals incompetence that, if presented publicly, would reveal that we’ve elected or hired or allowed to “rule” us someone who is incompetent.

If elected or appointed officials — or executives of companies large and small — are incompetent, voters and consumers need to know that. If incompetent people set the standards for what information is “classified” or “proprietary,” then us common folk need to fight attempts to increase secrecy.

Which brings us to National Sunshine Week, the intent of which is to “spark a discussion about the importance of open government.” (See the Web site.) It’s a week that reminds us of the need for a strong Freedom of Information Act.

The sun is shining this week, and people are testifying before a Senate panel on “a bill Congress is considering that would strengthen the 1966 act in part by forcing government officials and agencies to respond more quickly to requests for information.

“Sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the bill would create an ombudsman at the Administrative Conference of the United States to review agency compliance with FOIA requests and recommend alternatives to litigation.” (See the Times story.)

Among those testifying is Walter Mears, a Pulitzer-winning, now retired Associated Press journalist and executive. He’s far more eloquent than me:

“Too often, security becomes an excuse for shielding embarrassing information and secrecy can conceal mismanagement or wrongdoing.

“Overdone secrecy raises, rather than reduces, the risk that really vital secrets will be breached. If everything is classified, then my colleagues are going to go after everything.”

Governmental and corporate ability to hide behind secrecy has, to no one’s surprise, increased since Sept. 11, 2001. Some of that secrecy is justifiable.

That does not mean we the people should turn a blind eye to the ferocity with which Big Govmint and the Corpokleptocracy hide their incompetent bungling from public view.

Support attempts to strengthen, not weaken, the Freedom of Information Act. Support Senate bill S394.

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

March 16, 2005 at 2:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I like this. I have nothing constructive to add, just my delight at reading that there are still some shrewd people out there.

    wearebarnacles

    March 16, 2005 at 7:46 pm

    • Thanks …
      Thanks. I appreciate the flattery … now buy me a a stiff drink that will make this secrecy crap that infuriates me so much go away …
      Best,
      Denny

      Dr. Denny

      March 16, 2005 at 8:02 pm

  2. I’d like to think that someday people who run government (and other organizations) will realize that refusing to run them in the open leads to the assumption that there IS incompetent bungling going on back there. But I’m no longer real optimistic about that. The proof that openness works and can benefit the organization is out there (as is the proof that secrecy can damage or destroy). What does the continued willingness to hide say about the intelligence of some leaders?

    Anonymous

    March 17, 2005 at 2:46 am

  3. Sunshine, schmunshine
    Denny, the damned local fishwrap has been doing “Sunshine Week” features and op-ed pieces all week long. It’s been causing the hair on the back of my neck to stand on end, because this newspaper (I use the term loosely)spent the first 4 years of the Dubya administration sucking up to the red state morons who re-elected him and who have vociferously supported him (cutting their own throats in the process) in their letters to the editor. Now, suddenly, like some other mainstream media outlets (NYT, anyone?), they’ve suddenly found their cohoneys again and started to question the actions of these megalomaniacal corporate kleptocrats. And they busy saying things like “the government shouldn’t hide things from us.” Well, duh….
    The real problem is the news cycle issue itself. I’m reminded of the great quote by G.B. Shaw: “Newspapers are unable to discriminate between a bicycle accident and the collapse of civilization.”
    Update that to include electronic media and automobiles and it covers the current predicament quite nicely, n’est-ce pas?
    Oh, hell. I spoke French. Now I’ll get on another Homeland Security list….

    sirpaulsbuddy

    March 19, 2005 at 3:25 pm


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: