Wednesday, April 02, 2008

No More Secret Governments

I am proud to be an American, but I am ashamed of what the government is doing in my name. We are living in a country that openly discusses torture as acceptable government policy, which debates whether or not to grant immunity to corporations that spy on Americans, that invades foreign countries in violation of international law and that grants huge profits to private corporations which hire mercenaries to kill innocent women and children with immunity in foreign countries. How did we end up on this path of secrecy, torture, foreign invasion and war profiteering?

I believe that we took the first steps towards a secret government in 2001 with the passage of Executive Order 13233 which allows current and previous presidents to withhold documents and records without explanation indefinitely. This unprecedented expansion of power stands in direct opposition to the Freedom of Information Act and the US Constitution. Presidential records should be the property of the public and our right to know should be fundamental right of the people and not the president.

Executive Order 13233 states that presidential records may be withheld from the general public, including Freedom of Infomation Act requests, for decisions that are related to war, diplomacy, national security, legal advice, presidential communications, and the deliberative process of a president and his advisors. These types of communications are considered to be "presidential privileges" and not subject to open public scrutiny or public disclosure. This means that unless Congress acts, we may never know exactly how this administration decided to torture innocent civilians, how they decided it was acceptable to spy on Americans, or how they decided to give billions of dollars to war profiteering corporations.

This means we cannot decide if the President violated the law or if members of his administration knowingly violated the law. It is important, if we are to be a dignified nation, an honorable nation, to know how our elected representatives and their advisors came to make decisions which reflect the body politic. We live in an open society, and the decisions that our representatives make reflect upon us all. This is why it is vital to know what our representatives are thinking and what they are doing. If we don't, then we might as well admit that there is a secret government, unaccountable, acting without our consent.

In America, the government belongs to the people. Inherent in our system of self-government is the idea that the People have the right to know what our government and government officials are doing and to hold them accountable for their actions. Americans want to know why the Bush administration thinks it is acceptable to spy on her own citizens. We want to know who fabricated the weapons of mass destruction myth that was the agency of war in Iraq. These decisions have cost Americans hundreds of billions of dollars, and more tragically, thousands of American lives. Thomas Jefferson once said that information is the currency of democracy. That is why it is time to overturn Executive Order 13233 and restore dignity and trust to the American people.

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