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Open government on the ropes?

Senator May Seek Tougher Law on Leaks (Washington Post. Go to BugMeNot for anonymous log-in information)

Pat Roberts (R-Kan), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said that, in an effort to curb leaks, he “may add language to the fiscal 2007 intelligence authorization bill to criminalize the leaking of a wider range of classified information than is now covered by law.”

Civil liberties groups and news organizations have argued that the legislation would further restrict their ability to get information from officials. With more government documents being classified than ever before (see this FGI blog post and Secrecy News), this legislation (similar legislation was vetoed by President Clinton) will be a powerful 1-2 punch that could knock out open government!

Earlier today, James mentioned a quote by philosopher Sissela Bok in a post about the 1956 Coolidge Committee Report. Bok really hit the nail on the head by pointing out that more secrecy, more classification, and stricter laws against leaks are simply a spiral away from open government, away from our democratic ideals:

“…as government secrecy expands, more public officials become privy to classified information and are faced with the choice of whether or not to leak … growing secrecy likewise causes reporters to press harder from the outside to uncover what is hidden. And then in a vicious circle, the increased revelations give government leaders further reasons to press for still more secrecy.

–Sissela Bok, Secrets. New York: Vintage Books, 1989, p. 184 and 248.

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


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