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Hullabaloo


Friday, August 22, 2014

 
Making whistleblowers necessary

by digby

David Sirota at Salon reports on a number of developments in the government's repression of the press and the public right to know:
As states move to hide details of government deals with Wall Street, and as politicians come up with new arguments to defend secrecy, a study released earlier this month revealed that many government information officers block specific journalists they don’t like from accessing information. The news comes as 47 federal inspectors general sent a letter to lawmakers criticizing “serious limitations on access to records” that they say have “impeded” their oversight work.

The data about public information officers was compiled over the past few years by Kennesaw State University professor Dr. Carolyn Carlson. Her surveys found that 4 in 10 public information officers say “there are specific reporters they will not allow their staff to talk to due to problems with their stories in the past.”

“That horrified us that so many would do that,” Carlson told the Columbia Journalism Review, which reported on her presentation at the July conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

Carlson has conducted surveys of journalists and public information officers since 2012. In her most recent survey of 445 working journalists, four out of five reported that “their interviews must be approved” by government information officers, and “more than half of the reporters said they had actually been prohibited from interviewing [government] employees at least some of the time by public information officers.”

In recent years, there have been signs that the federal government is reducing the flow of public information. Reason Magazine has reported a 114 percent increase in Freedom of Information Act rejections by the Drug Enforcement Agency since President Obama took office. The National Security Agency has also issued blanket rejections of FOIA requests about its metadata program. And the Associated Press reported earlier this year that in 2013, “the government cited national security to withhold information a record 8,496 times — a 57 percent increase over a year earlier and more than double Obama’s first year.”
There's more at the link. Obsessive government secrecy ends up making whistleblowing necessary way beyond the prosaic revelations of corruption and malfeasance. You simply can't have a functioning democracy if the people doesn't know what the government is doing. I get that they might think they are "protecting" us but that's patronizing at best and just plain dishonest at worst.

Something's gone wrong these past few years and it doesn't seem as if either party has any real interest in transparency. And the Democrats are arguably worse because they pretend to care about it and then crack down with the same fervor as Bush and Cheney. If all this is being done to "protect" us we have a right to know specifically what it is we're being protected from. They're infantalizing us by keeping it from us. Unfortunately, it's far more likely they are using the excuse of "protecting" us to expand their power as bureaucracies (and human beings) are wont to do when they have the chance. And that's very dangerous.


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