The way the Bush administration operates
"By their deeds shall you know them."
1. The Henry Waxman report. An extensive report released by Rep. Henry Waxman shows that the Bush administration has consistently undermined the laws that promote public access to government records while systematically expanding the laws that authorize secret government operations. Here is an official report (pdf file) of the U.S. House of Representatives. Below, I show just a few of the items that I collected before finding this report. To top of page
2. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). When the FOIA was enacted in 1966, President Johnson said, "No one should be able to pull curtains of secrecy around decisions that can be revealed without injury to the public interest." The Clinton memorandum (pdf file) told his government about the importance of the FOIA and instructed them to follow it in letter and spirit. The Ashcroft memorandum (pdf file) does the opposite: it expressly encourages agencies to look for reason to deny access to information. To top of page
3. The U.S. Dept. of Justice. After disregarding requests for more than a year for a consultant's study about the department's efforts to ensure diversity, the department released the 186-page documentwith many lines and pages blacked out. It took more effort to get the whole document. It looks like the administration's policies on FOIA (see pt. 1) were being followed. Here are some of the sentences that had been blacked out:
4. Presidential papers and executive privilege. The Presidential Records Act of 1978 makes presidential records public property and requires that the records be made public 12 years after a presidency has ended. Therefore, the Reagan-Bush papers should have been made public when Bush, Jr. became president. But Bush immediately signed an excutive order keeping them hidden, and potentially indefinitely. What doesn't Bush want you to see? A coalition has filed suit in federal court, but the case has not yet been settled. Read about it here (local version). To top of page
5. Who was on the energy task force? In January 2001, Bush created an energy task force, under the direction of Cheney. This task force met and submitted recommendations to Congress. Congress asked to see the list of task-force members. The Bush administration refused, and the case is now in the courts. Why shouldn't we all be able to know who was on the committee? Wouldn't you like to know who is making energy policy for the nation? Why the secrecy? To top of page
6. Altering an EPA Report. The White House forced (local version) the Environmental Protection Agency to remove from its 2003 report on the state of the environment large sections that talked about the risks of global warming. For more examples of such actions, click on "Widespread misuse of science" in the left column. To top of page
7. Blocking an EPA Warning. The White House blocked a nationwide alert by the EPA about the danger of a certain kind of insulation that contained a dangerous asbestos for over a year. St. Louis Dispatch, December 29, 2003. (pdf file) To top of page
8. Hiding cuts in National Parks Services. In Spring 2004, the Interior Department was criticized for making cuts in visitors services and then trying to hide the cuts from the public. According to the memo, "the majority of Northeast Region Parks are beginning this fiscal year with fewer operating dollars than in FY03. Additionally, the absorption of pay costs, necessary assessments and other rising, fixed costs have further eroded operating dollars." The memo suggested using the term "service level adjustment" instead of "cut". The memo also said,
9. Altering facts during 9/11. Directly after 9/11, the White House forced (local version) the EPA to change its statements about public health risks in NY to make them sound less alarming. To top of page
10. The 9/11 Commission. Bush opposed the creation of the 9/11 commission, whose purpose (local version) was to find out how the goverment dealt with terror that morning. He gave in to pressure, and it was created. The administration stalled (local version) in letting the Commission read crucial documents, and the Commission had to ask for an extension of time as well as more funds. These were given only after pressure from Congress and the press. The administration tried to place (article no longer accessible) all sorts of restrictions on who could read certain documents and what they could do with them. To top of page
The administration refused to let anyone from the administration testify before the Commission. Again, only after pressure, did Bush himself and Condoleezza Rice testify, and only under certain conditions. This website (local pdf version) outlines how the administration sought to obstruct and discredit the 9/11 investigation. To top of page
11. Censoring the Supreme Court. In documentation for a case concerning the ACLU and the Patriot Act, the Justice Department blacked out passages that it felt should not be publically released, ostensibly for national security reasons. Here is one passage that was blacked outnot for security reasons but in order to stifle dissent:
12. Ending media coverage of returning coffins. The administration banned the filming of coffins with killed soldiers arriving from Iraq. The reason, most people admit, is that it hurt the administration's image. Here's an article on it (local version). To top of page
13. Snowmobiles in Yellowstone. The administration touted the use of "quieter" snowmobiles in Yellowstone, even though they knew months earlier that the new snowmobiles were actually much louder. They simply suppressed the information (local version). To top of page
14. Auto safety data no longer public. A two-paragraph decision buried deep in the Federal Register makes previously public information relating to unsafe automobiles or defective parts unavailable to the public. Few people knew about this act, but awareness is growing. Here's a blog on it (local version) from 18 August 2004. To top of page
15. Bush administration doesn't want whistleblowers. (Article (local version) in the NY Times, 3 Oct 2004.) Whistleblowers are people who report fraud, waste, or wrongdoing when their employers dismiss their concerns. Whistleblowers are acting in the interests of the public, and they need protection. A bill before Congress would increase the very poor protections for federal employees, but the Bush administration doesn't want the new law.
On 15 March 2004 (pdf file), four Congressmen wrote to Bush, asking him and his administration not to retaliate against a Medicare official who came out with the fact that administration officials told him he would be severely reprimanded if he gave certain information to Congress. They cited two recent cases where the Whitehouse had tried to discredit whistleblowers.
Here are examples of what has happened to federal worker whistleblowers under this administration: