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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Taming the watchdog

The level of secrecy and discourse in this country is reaching authoritarian proportions. I’m not sure who the government thinks it is protecting. Consider this in today’s WaPo, claiming that the U.S. government can prosecute journalists who receive classified information.

So much for watchdog function of the press:

Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, who first disclosed the government filing on his Web site said yesterday, "The idea that the government can penalize the receipt of proscribed information, and not just its unauthorized disclosure, is one that characterizes authoritarian societies, not mature democracies."

And then there’s this from yesterday’s Times. Like the story above that was first reported by a scientist, this is one of those stories that could have easily been missed had it not been for historians who rely on the National Archives for research.

In a seven-year-old secret program at the National Archives, intelligence agencies have been removing from public access thousands of historical documents that were available for years, including some already published by the State Department and others photocopied years ago by private historians.

The story continues:

But because the reclassification program is itself shrouded in secrecy — governed by a still-classified memorandum that prohibits the National Archives even from saying which agencies are involved — it continued virtually without outside notice until December. That was when an intelligence historian, Matthew M. Aid, noticed that dozens of documents he had copied years ago had been withdrawn from the archives' open shelves.

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