View Full Version : Suffering In Secret: Dark Consequences Of 9/11

09-11-2005, 01:08 AM
Suffering in secret: Dark consequence of 9/11


By Maggie Mulvihill/ Special Report
Sunday, September 11, 2005

Growing government secrecy - an ominous, unlikely legacy of America's most deadly terrorist attack - is hitting home as the nation reels from its most devastating natural disaster.

Four years after 9/11, a report issued last week by OpentheGovernment.org, a coalition of freedom of information advocacy groups, found nearly twice as many new classified documents in 2004 as in 2001 - a jump of about 7 million.

And the federal government's efforts to keep information from the public are growing at an alarming rate, with taxpayers shelling out $7.2 billion last year alone to keep government documents hidden.

The federal penchant for hiding public information was in full force in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, as officials told news photographers not to take pictures of the dead and refused to release information about Federal Emergency Management Agency spending following previous hurricanes. Challenged in court, the Bush administration agreed yesterday not to prevent the news media from following the body recovery.

The calamitous response of government officials in the urgent hours after the deadly hurricane is precisely why the public should demand to know what its leaders are doing to keep the country safe, experts say.

``This disaster showed whatever planning took place was a failure, so we need more than statements and more than secrecy in the name of security,'' said Rick Blum, author of ``Secrecy Report Card 2005.''

``What I hope is that we begin to understand that we have many different threats, and citizens expect the government to be ready.''

Among the report's findings:

Nearly 64 percent of federal advisory committee meetings are completely closed to the public.

For every dollar spent to release old secrets in 2004, the government spent another $148 to classify more records; in 2001, the figure was $1 for every $19.

President Bush used the ``state secrets'' privilege to withhold information from the public 33 times more frequently than it had been invoked at the pinnacle of the Cold War.

Before the hurricane, national security was most frequently invoked as a reason to classify information. In just one of thousands of examples of government secrecy since Sept. 11, 2001, officials in Utah refused to release maps of dams for fear terrorists could obtain them.

That means those living directly in the path of floodwaters if the dam breaks remain in the dark about potential flooding, said Rebecca Daugherty of the Reporter's Committee for Freedom of the Press.

``I think we have to keep a look at government all the time. We need to know what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong. Are they only planning for a level-three hurricane, not a level four or five?'' Daugherty said.